Tag Archives: mystery

Review: All the Devils are Here, by Louise Penny

All the Devils are Here, by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books / St. Martin’s Press, 2020)

Armand Gamache is one of my fictional heroes. As a homicide investigator he has seen more darkness than most, but he also believes that, to quote the author, “goodness exists.” Perhaps that’s why I’m so fond of him and comforted by his presence on the page. I’ve grown fond of the other recurring characters too.

This is the one series I’ve persisted in reading despite the profanity and the times when the darkness gets a little too grim for me. In their own ways they’re stories of hope. Of second chances, restored relationships. Light in the darkness.

The context of the title is the Shakespearean quote, “Hell is empty, and all the devils are here.”

The Gamache novels are mysteries with a strong focus on the characters. This time, instead of the serene and peaceful Quebec village of Three Pines, All the Devils are Here is set in Paris. A reader who knows the city will find an extra bonus, as the author has gone to great lengths to familiarize herself with the subtle nuances that bring it to life on the page.

Another thing I appreciate about this book is the evocative language. Some of my favourite lines:

Where else would you find darkness but right up against the light? What greater triumph for evil than to ruin a garden? It wouldn’t be the first time. [Chapter 1, 1%]

What’re you going to focus on? What’s unfair, or all the wonderful things that happen? Both are true, both are real. Both need to be accepted. But which carries more weight with you? [Chapter 1, 2%]

Séverine Arbour stood at the door, her face set in a pleasant smile with a base note of smoky resentment and a hint of smug. [Chapter 2, 4%]

Until he saw the stain on the floor. And the outline of the body. Like skin around a hollow man. [Chapter 31, 63%]

All the Devils are Here is the 16th Gamache novel. This is a series you could start here, but it’s well worth beginning at the beginning. That way you’ll understand the character relationship nuances. For more about bestselling author Louise Penny, visit louisepenny.com.

[Electronic review copy from the public library.]

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Picks from 2020

Graphic credit: Goodreads


Seventy books is a reduction in reading for me, and I’m happy about that. It allowed more time in a crazy pandemic year for knitting, jigsaw puzzles, baking, and other comforting activities. Plus I read more nonfiction in 2020 and that takes longer.

Here are the books I’ve most enjoyed last year. Some were produced in 2020, some previously. Pop a note into the comments with your own favourites?

My top picks from 2020:

Book of the year (fiction): Set the Stars Alight, by Amanda Dykes

Book of the year (nonfiction): Letters to the Church, by Francis Chan

Christian living: 
Fiercehearted, by Holley Gerth
Forgotten God, by Francis Chan
Get Out of Your Head, by Jennie Allen

Mystery/suspense novel: 
A Dream of Death, (Kate Hamilton Mysteries #1), by Connie Berry
All the Devils are Here (Armand Gamache #16), by Louise Penny

Science fiction novel:
Chaos Rising (Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy #1), by Timothy Zahn
Ghost Riders in the Sky, by Timothy Zahn

Series re-read: The Quadrail series, by Timothy Zahn

Favourite re-read: The Icarus Hunt, by Timothy Zahn

Review: Murder on Birchardville Hill, by Ruth Buchanan

Murder on Birchardville Hill, by Ruth Buchanan (Harbourlight Books, 2017)

Crime podcaster Morgan Scott has a successful online career (complete with crazy stalker and an incarcerated murderer who has vowed revenge) but she doesn’t have many in-person friends.

Sitting home alone over the Christmas holidays would just give her time to brood about her enemies, so she decides to follow up on an old murder in a town so remote that it’s barely marked on the map: Birchardville, Pennsylvania.

Her life in Florida has not prepared her for winter with actual snow. And while Birchardville may be remote, danger still finds her there.

I liked the fact that Morgan is Asian-American (her birth name is Chen Meifeng). This doesn’t factor much into the story, but it’s nice to see a protagonist who’s not your standard Caucasian.

What does factor in is her independent, self-reliant, sometimes-funny personality. And as one Birchardville resident says, she’s “theologically sound.”

I enjoyed the author’s voice in this story, and will be looking for more of her books.

For more about Ruth Buchanan and her books, visit ruthbuchananauthor.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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Review: A Dream of Death, by Connie Berry

A Dream of Death, by Connie Berry | A Kate Hamilton Mystery

A Dream of Death, by Connie Berry (Crooked Lane Books, 2019)

A remote Scottish island. A private hotel steeped in history. And a repeat of a centuries-old murder.

This is the sort of mystery I love best. The setting is so real I can almost step into it, and I liked the protagonist, Kate Hamilton, from page one. Kate deals in antiques, not crimes, but she has a good eye for detail and strong motivation to solve this mystery. The company of an attractive, vacationing English police detective is a bonus.

The language is engaging. My favourite lines:

Three years had passed since Bill’s death, and the veneer of coping I’d laid over my grief was as thin as eggshell porcelain and every bit as breakable. [page 1]

Guthrie sat between his mother and Elenor, looking as if his license to exist had just expired. [page 29]

How many minutes, hours, days had that old clock marked? Years rolled by, then decades and centuries, and every morning the hands of the clock turned anew, as if it were possible to record over the failures and griefs of the past. [page 64]

A Dream of Death is the first book in the Kate Hamilton Mystery series, and I’m eager to read book two, A Legacy of Murder.

Connie Berry is an American author who writes this Scottish setting like it’s one she knows well. For more about the author and her work, visit connieberry.com.

[Review copy from the public library.]

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Review: The Road to Happenstance, by Janice L. Dick

The Road to Happenstance, by Janice L. Dick

The Road to Happenstance, by Janice L. Dick (Tansy & Thistle Press, 2020)

A whimsical town, a host of quirky characters, and events that seem to conspire to keep Matthew Sadler from leaving once he arrives by “happenstance.”

Fleeing painful memories, Matt and his motorcycle are roaring along the highway when a near-accident forces him onto a hidden side road. On the far side of a covered bridge, he discovers the town of Happenstance.

He’ll leave as soon as he gases up. Or after a night’s rest in the charming Happenstance Hotel. Or after he helps the elderly sisters who run the hotel. Or after…

As well as the sisters, he meets Bear, a local mechanic with some unusual turns of phrase, and Veronica, who bears a startling resemblance to his dead wife.

The longer he stays, the more he suspects a mystery behind the hotel’s troubles.

This gently-paced novel will bring smiles—and maybe a wistful longing to find a place like Happenstance in the real world.

Favourite lines:

The road was scarcely wide enough for two cars to pass, a dirt path with a scattering of gravel on top as a sort of apology. [Kindle location 30]

We got whatcha want, unless you want what we don’t got, and then you prob’ly don’t need it. [Bear, describing the town; Kindle location 50]

They came with their offerings of food to their gods of guild and duty and pity, but he would rather have been alone. [Matt remembering the visitors after his wife’s death; Kindle location 1788]

Author Janice L. Dick is known for her faith-filled historical fiction. Although The Road to Happenstance is a contemporary novel, the town’s nostalgic feel lends an impression of stepping back in time, and Matthew’s personal struggles are affected by his faith. For more about the author and her work, visit janicedick.wordpress.com.

[Advance review copy provided by the publisher. My opinions are my own.]

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Hidden Secrets Giveaway and Interview

Book cover: Hidden Secrets
A Green Dory Inn Mystery, book 2

Here’s your chance to win a print copy of Hidden Secrets (or an ebook if you prefer them) anywhere in the world. Just pop over to A Christian Writer’s World – Characters Who Grip Your Heart and leave a comment. Click here. Draw ends January 17, 2020.

Already read the book but you like reading author interviews? Click the link above and join the conversation. Host Lena Nelson Dooley always has interesting questions.

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Review: Smoke Screen, by Terri Blackstock

Smoke Screen, by Terri Blackstock

Smoke Screen, by Terri Blackstock (Thomas Nelson, 2019)

In Smoke Screen, Terri Blackstock gives us a novel of second chances, romance, faith—and mystery. It’s not a high-suspense story, but the emotional tension will keep readers turning pages.

Nate’s father has spent 14 years in prison for the murder of Brenna’s father, all the while claiming he’s innocent. If he is, then there’s a killer in town. Nate himself, now a smoke jumping firefighter, is thought by many to be responsible for burning down the dead man’s church. Even his father thinks he did it—but he didn’t. So who did?

Brenna and Nate were childhood sweethearts until tragedy scarred both their families. Now Brenna’s in a losing battle for custody of her kids after her husband left her for a younger woman. Her children are her life. When they’re gone on the weekend, not even alcohol can numb the pain.

What I appreciated most about the story is the compassionate and honest portrayal of a Christian struggling with drinking. It happens, and as in Brenna’s case, the faith aspect can increase the shame and guilt. I hope her example can bring hope to others who fight this battle in real life.

For more about the book and about New York Times bestselling author Terri Blackstock, visit terriblackstock.com.

[I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.]

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Review: The Lord’s My Shepherd and I Shall Not Want, by Debbie Viguié

The Lord's My Shepherd and I Shall Not Want, two mysteries by Debbie Viguie | Psalm 23 Mysteries book 1 and 2 #cleanreads
The Lord’s My Shepherd and I Shall Not Want, by Debbie Viguié (Abingdon Press, 2013)

The Psalm 23 Mysteries series has 15 books, including one that released this year, and I expect there’ll be more. The titles haven’t finished the psalm yet.

These are cozy mysteries featuring church secretary Cindy Preston and her unlikely partner in amateur sleuthing, Rabbi Jeremiah Silverman from the synagogue next door to the church.

I found the first two as an ebook bundle. They’re clean reads, and treat both the Christian and Jewish faiths with respect. One of the neat side-lights in book 1 was learning more about Passover preparations from Jeremiah.

Thanks to her mother and to the loss of her sister as a child, Cindy’s strongest motivators as the series opens seem to be safety and appearances. Of the two characters, Jeremiah is more in touch with his spiritual side and more likely to think about how God might relate to his circumstances.

By book 2 Cindy is beginning to discover glimpses of her own strength and identity, and Jeremiah’s letting readers know he has dubious skill sets from his past that aren’t what his congregation would expect.

Seeing these progressions motivates me to read further into the series. I confess at first I wasn’t sure. When there are Christians in a novel, I like them to share with me on a spiritual level. Not necessarily anything deeply theological or sermon-like, but a connection that encourages my own faith walk. Cindy, though, is a Christian who doesn’t think much about her faith, so there’s not much connection there—at least yet.

In The Lord’s My Shepherd, a serial killer arranges his victims in parodies of various scenes from the week leading up to Easter. In I Shall Not Want, someone’s killing people and stealing their dogs—even from homeless people. I appreciated the advice—and the challenge—one of the homeless characters gives about treating the homeless with respect.

It does take a stretch of the imagination to accept all the details involved in the first book’s plot, especially that the killer could find the appropriate situations with characters whose names also match his plan.

But both stories flow quickly, with action and banter and a surprisingly light touch, given the high body count.

Debbie Viguié is a New York Times bestselling author, and while most of the other books on her website look like fairly dark mainstream fantasies, the Psalm 23 series does come from a Christian publisher. For more about the author and her books, visit debbieviguie.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

New Mystery Now Available

Unknown Enemy, A Green Dory Inn Mystery, Book 1And it’s official…

Unknown Enemy is now available in print and from multiple ebook vendors.

If you’re in the market for a short, summer mystery, pop over to my book page and check it out. Or go directly to your favourite online retailer… 🙂

 

One other thing: If you know anyone who reads on Kobo who’d enjoy my novel, Secrets and Lies, it’s part of a promotion that lets readers take 3 books for $9. This is Canada-US only (sorry, international friends–Kobo’s choice, not mine!)


In Canada: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/p/3for9ca
In the US: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/p/3for9us

Review: Over Maya Dead Body, by Sandra Orchard

Over Maya Dead Body, by Sandra Orchard #bookreview #overmayadeadbody mystery romantic suspenseOver Maya Dead Body, by Sandra Orchard (Revell, 2017)

FBI agent Serena Jones is trained to spot illegal activity – even when she’s on vacation. A stranger’s suspicious behaviour makes her think he’s smuggling art antiquities, and the unexpected death of the man she and her family had travelled to visit has her looking for a murderer.

The evidence suggests that Jack fell, but what happens next convinces Serena otherwise. Unless she’s too obsessed by her job and these incidents are truly accidents like the local police say.

Serena, her parents, and her incorrigible Aunt Martha are joined by Nate (Serena’s apartment superintendent, who’s more than he seems) and Tanner (her FBI boss) to help untangle the clues. Aunt Martha brings a few of her contacts into play, as well.

It looks like Jack was killed to keep him from talking about an antiquities smuggling ring. Then, there’s his missing nephew. And rumours of drugs. In the middle of trying to solve the mystery, Serena can’t stop comparing her feelings for Nate and Tanner and wondering how she can be attracted to them both.

Many fans of the series have already voted on which guy Serena will choose, and it’s been a source of some contention. They’re both fine men, and my one hesitation about reading this book was I didn’t want to see either of them sad at the end. Author Sandra Orchard has that covered, though, with an epilogue that forecasts happiness in the future for the man who lost out.

This is a fast-paced mystery filled with banter, twists and turns, and pages that practically turn themselves. Aunt Martha is a hoot as she tries to help with the investigation. As Serena says,

As sidekicks went, she was the best. If I ever decided to quit my day job and become a PI, I’d hire her in a flash. Well, except for the fact that Mom would kill me. [page 121]

Over Maya Dead Body is book 3 in the Serena Jones Mystery series. I heartily recommend starting with book 1, A Fool and His Monet, and reading all three books.

Sandra Orchard is an award-winning, Canadian author. She has also written the Port Aster Secrets series, and a number of other romantic suspense novels. For more about the author, and to see the bonus features she provides for each book, visit sandraorchard.com.

[Review copy provided by the publisher.]