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Crow was set adrift in a small skiff when she was only hours old. Osh, a hermitic man, finds her and takes her into his isolated hut in the Elizabeth Islands near Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts and raises her as his daughter with the help of local resident, Miss Maggie and a cat called Mouse.

Osh made his way north from his southern home because things were getting bad, leaving whatever family he had. Over time, he tries to forget his past. However, Crow’s past is unknown and as she grows she wants to know where she came from, especially whether she came from nearby Penikese Island, a former leper colony. The townspeople assume that was her heritage and keep their distance although Crow has shown no sign of the disease.

Lauren Wolk, author of the Newbery Award winning Wolf Hollow, has written an adventurous coming of age, “family isn’t necessarily biological” story that keeps readers attention from the first page, which starts “I’ll never know for sure when I was born. Not exactly.”

In telling Crow’s story in Beyond the Bright Sea, Wolk weaves in some of the history and folklore surrounding Penikese  and other of the Elizabeth Islands, especially rumors of buried treasure. However, it is the stories of Crow, Osh and Maggie and their relationships that make Beyond the Bright Sea a beautiful book. Taking place in the 1920s, readers also get a flavor of life in the remote islands and also in ‘bustling New Bedford’, only miles away geographically but light years away in life style.

Beyond the Bright Sea is a heartwarming story. Even if you’re not much of a middle grade reader (which I’m not), it is worth reading. An excellent book.

 

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I’m a sucker for memoirs about selling old, family owned Cape Cod homes since I love the island that much. That’s why I loved The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home by George Howe Colt. He evoked the charm, the family, the sadness when his family sold their summer home. I hope To the New Owners by Madeleine Blais would evoke the same emotions, but alas, it did not.

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Instead, Ms. Blais, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, described life on Martha’s Vineyard, the growth of the Vineyard from a whaling town to a summer destination for the elite, and then, to some extent, life with her family.

To the New Neighbors is not a love story about a somewhat ramshackle summer home, lived in for fifty years by her in-laws’ family, that the author is sure will be knocked down and replaced by a McMansion. It is more a psychological study of the island, the residents’ desire for privacy, the way the island makes summer guests forget the rest of the world (until a president or two decide to vacation there), the ramifications of a breach of that privacy, etc. She touches on the life of year-round residents facing many of the same issues found on the mainland.  She name drops quite a bit.

Ms. Blais is an award winning journalist and To the New Neighbors comes across more as a newspaper article than a memoir. If you are looking for a more poignant story, The Big House will be more your speed.

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Set in Australia. Rachel moved away but not before sending Henry (her best friend) a love letter to which he never responded. “Sending” means sticking said letter in Henry’s favorite book in his family’s bookstore in the Letter Library section, a section devoted to people’s notes in books, either in the margins or between  the pages.

After her brother, Cal, drowned, Rachel decides to move back and live with her Aunt Rose. In the interim she’s had a boyfriend and theoretically gotten over Henry. He, too, has had girlfriends, primarily Amy who no one likes but Henry.

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Not only is Rachel back, but she’s taken a job at the bookstore and will be working side by side with Henry. I wonder how that will go!

Everyone in Words in Deep Blue is having issues. Rachel and her mom are trying, rather unsuccessfully, to deal with Cal’s death. Henry’s parents are divorced, the bookstore barely makes a profit and his mother is trying to convince everyone to sell it…the property being worth a fortune. Henry, his parents and his sister each have a vote in the decision. Meanwhile, Amy constantly breaks up with Henry, in part because of his poor financial position.

The concept of a Letter Library is really interesting, especially since Cath Crowley interspersed random notes throughout the book.

The characters in Words in Deep Blue are unique but you don’t find that out until the end…which makes the book more worthy of a read. Any story taking place in a bookstore has an appeal to me, as you probably know. The Letter Library just adds to the attraction.  But basically, Words in Deep Blue is a teen romance. So, if that’s your genre, go for it. You won’t be disappointed.

 

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This debut mystery by Danish authors Kaaberbol and Friis is an absorbing read. Not only is it a mystery but it delves into the personalities of the characters. The only confusion is what country/countries the action takes place in.

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In brief, Sigita’s son Mikas is kidnapped by a woman who has previously offered him chocolate in the schoolyard and playground. Karin, at the behest of her boss Jan, retrieves an extremely heavy suitcase from a baggage check in the local train station. Curious, she opens it to find a young child, unconscious but alive, curled up in the suitcase. What nefarious activities was the boy headed for? Unsure what to do, she calls her long lost friend, Nina Borg, tells her about the suitcase, but not its contents. A long time ‘savior of the world’, she knows Nina will know what to do. The end result (not a spoiler), her boss doesn’t have what he wants and the abductor doesn’t have what he wants leading to two days of tension, terror  and murder.

Recommended by a bookseller from Soho Press at the Brooklyn Book Festival, The Boy in the Suitcase, the initial book in the Nina Borg series, was well worth the read. Towards the end, I was constantly reading because I wanted to know how it ended. The authors did leave some characters unsettled, I guess is the word I would use. I would have liked to find out what happened to some of them…the ones you get attached to.

The Boy in the Suitcase is a welcome addition to the Scandinavian mystery scene.  It has action, tension, mystery. It h as a plausible plot, a few surprises and a surprise ending…or more to the point, it has an end you don’t see coming until…presto, at one point you do see coming. If you’re a Nordic mystery fan, go for it.

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Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner picks up where her debut novel Missing, Presumed leaves off. Manon Bradshaw has adopted twelve year old Fly (from the previous book) and moved back to Huntingdon, living with her sister and nephew Solly. When a finance executive is stabbed to death in a local park, Fly is charged with the murder, even though there is no evidence to support the charge. He was seen walking in the park at the time of the murder and his footprint was found in some blood on the ground.

Manon, five months pregnant, is obviously beside herself, bemoaning the move which was theoretically to benefit Fly by getting him out of his old neighborhood. Barred from participating in the murder investigation, she of course, does so anyway, along with hired attorney Mark Talbot.

There are a lot (a lot) of twists and turns in Persons Unknown, that’s for sure. And it is a good read. However, it is short on solving the mystery and long on Manon’s bemoaning her fate: single, pregnant, tired, not keeping Fly safe in his new environment…and the list goes on. So, here you have the plusses and minuses. Do what you will.

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In Mayor’s 28th outing in the Joe Gunther series (the previous book being Presumption of Guilt, which apparently I didn’t review), Joe actually takes a back seat to the rest of his small crew: Lester Spinney, Sam Martens and Will Kunkle. Each is responsible for his/her own case–Lester follows up on a cold case (actually a case which seemed cut and dried previously which now has developed some wrinkles), Sam investigates the murder of a friend of Rachel Hillstrom (the daughter of medical examiner and Joe’s par amour Beverly Hillstrom) and Willie chases the possible sabotage of a supplier of U.S. military equipment. Joe, meanwhile, it out of town in Louisiana with his mother who is in a rehab center, having contracted a rare form of Lyme disease.

There are different types of families. There are those that get together quite often, love each other and are animated and there are those who get together once a year and that’s just fine. I’m finding the Joe Gunther family is falling into the latter category. While Trace was interesting, there was no spice to it. It’s tough writing a 28 episode series and keeping it young and fresh. Possibly some new characters are in order. Maybe a little more action. Whatever the missing ingredient, Trace is a lackluster entry into Mayor’s long running series.

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Cobrador del frac: men in black frock coats who, without speaking, name and shame debtors into paying their debts. That is the modern day version. The original cobrador, according to Louise Penny’s latest (the 14th) Gamache mystery, Glass Houses (after A Great Reckoning), was a conscience and went after those who has not been punished for a serious offense. When a version of that, dating back to the 1300s appears in Three Pines everyone gets nervous. Regardless of the fact that he stood there day in, day out, there was nothing that could be done. Even Gamache, head of the Surete, could not find a way to have him move on.  When Katie Evans, a visitor to the B&B is found dead, speculation increases.

Simultaneously, Gamache and the Surete are trying to eliminate the burgeoning drug/opioid trade that is taking hold in Montreal.

The story in Glass Houses, is told in the current time as Gamache testifies at the trial of the murderer and in the original time period of the events unfolding. Penny handles the back and forth with ease.

With Louise Penny, you get what you expect. All the residents of Three Pines are back in their idiosyncratic way. There is thought, action, unpredictable (and yet predictable) outcomes. The characters are endearing. She keeps it interesting, a hard thing to do. And she keeps us wanting more.

If you’re a Gamache fan, you’ll love this book. If you haven’t read Louise Penny, you should. You can start with the current book or start at the beginning with Still Life, from 2005.

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Darren Mathews has been suspended as a Texas Ranger pending the results of an inquiry regarding his allegedly lying to a grand jury. Yet his FBI friend Greg Heglund, knowing that his interest would be piqued by it, told him of two murders in a small Texas town, the first a Black man from Chicago and second a local white girl. The local sheriff was making the former into a robbery/death and the latter into a domestic dispute of some sort. Knowing however, that the Aryan Brotherhood has a strong hold in the town, made for curiosity.

Mathews, despite having to turn in his badge, figures out he has about a day to drive, take a look and return. What he finds reeks of something other than a robbery gone awry. It is a town where everyone knows everyone else and everyone else’s business, where half the town is related to the other half, regardless of skin color and where secrets abound. Being a Black man nosing around, regardless of his law enforcement status, can be dangerous and even deadly.

I’d never read Attica Locke before, despite her book Black Water Rising being nominated for an Edgar Award. I’m sorry I waited so long. Bluebird, Bluebird is filled with musical references, something I love. It’s got colorful characters, both Black and white, many descendants of either slaves or slave owners…sometimes both. Geneva is the Black woman who, having experienced heartache, still mother’s everyone. Wally is the landed gentry whose family homestead dates back to the 1800s and who thinks he runs the town. (He might.)

There is the usual repartee between the rogue cop (Mathews) and his boss, the unheeded warnings and the rebukes. There is the credit starved FBI friend. There is the romance gone south. There’s drugs and beatings and racial tension of the south. In other words, all the ingredients of a good mystery. Bluebird, Bluebird, exceeding my high expectations.

 

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When P.I. Rick Cahill’s ex-girlfriend, Kim, comes to him with a problem, he cannot deny her request for help because he’s still in love with her. She fears her husband is cheating on her and she trusts no one but Cahill whose forte happens to be tailing wayward spouses. What he sees appears to be philandering, but as Cahill digs deeper, it becomes something more complicated, especially when a “solid citizen” with a notorious past enters the picture.

Simultaneously, Cahill receives a phone call from a contractor who found a hidden safe while demolishing Cahill’s boyhood home. Upon opening it, Cahill finds a gun, $15,000 in cash and safe deposit box key. His father, a dishonored La Jolla policeman who died a broken man after years of ostracism and alcohol, was rumored to be on the mob payroll, but Rick, who idolized his father, always held out hope that the rumors were false. Could this be evidence that they indeed were true?

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This fourth entry in the Rick Cahill series, after Dark Fissures, provides readers with a lot of action. Cahill does take his share of knocks. The plot moves along quickly. Cahill’s part time partner, Moira, a true curmudgeon, provides the smart repartee exhibited by many crime novel sidekicks.

Cahill’s antagonistic relationship with the local police, carried forward from previous books, continues unabated. A little more background, while alluded to, would have been nice, although its absence doesn’t really hinder enjoyment of this solid book. My only other criticism is that Coyle keeps harping on the rumors and demise and Cahill’s idolizing of his father. It was made crystal clear a few pages into the book and there was no need for the constant repetition. All in all, though, Blood Truth was a good read and  while I’d read more books in the series, I wouldn’t necessarily go specifically looking for them.

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Kate Waters, a reporter, needs a good story. In this online world, this seasoned reporter is relegated to editing other reporters’ stories. The laurels of her previous great story wore off years ago.

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Angela Irving wants to know what happened to her newborn daughter. Leaving her in her crib in her hospital room after visiting hours and going off to shower, she returned to find the bassinet empty. That was 1975.

Emma Massingham????? is afraid the police will find out what she did and arrest her.

So, when a newborn baby’s bones are found under an urn on a concrete patio that is being demolished, everyone has an interest. Forensics determines that the bones are around 40 years old but the detritus around the body suggest it was buried 10 years later. Where could it have been for those 10 years?

The Child by Fiona Barton, author of The Widow (like those 2 word titles?) is a good read. It’s got an interesting premise. It’s populated with good, solid characters and it keeps the action flowing. Kate Waters also plays a role in The Widow and she’s a good character to build a series around. She’s the female equivalent of Bruce DeSilva’s Liam Mulligan, a reporter lamenting the fate of the newspaper industry, hard driving and undeterred.

If you want a good mystery that will keep you guessing, The Child is a good place to start.

 

 

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