Monthly Archives: August 2022

The Book Whisperer Discovers a Cozy Winner!


After reading and thoroughly enjoying The Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood, I did some research on Thorogood. I have watched all of the episodes of Death in Paradise, a BBC murder mystery series, with great interest. I had not, however, paid attention to who created Death in Paradise. After reading The Marlow Murder Club, I discovered Thorogood is also the creator of one of my favorite TV shows.

The Marlow Murder Club, the first in a new series of mysteries, introduces readers to feisty Judith Potts, 77. Judith lives along the River Thames. She writes crossword puzzles and is good at creating clues with double meanings. She is also clever at putting puzzles together and finding solutions. The next character readers meet is Suzie, the dog walker. Suzie also lives alone, but she is out every day walking dogs along the Thames. She drives an old beat-up vehicle which has a screwdriver in the ignition to start it. Our third character to join is Becks, the local vicar’s wife, the youngest of the trio.

How these three unlikely women become sleuths working together and end up not only solving three murders, but also becoming friends will amuse, entertain, and enlighten readers. To say that I look forward to the next book in the series, Death Comes to Marlow, would be an understatement. However, I must wait because the book is due to be published in June 2023.

I enjoyed the whole book. I can also point to certain highlights that make the book fun to read. The police detective assigned to the murders at first tells the ladies to back off and stay out of the investigation. Of course, they do not listen, primarily because Judith is determined to find the killer or killers. Finally, the detective brings Judith, Suzie, and Becks into the investigation because she realizes she is in over her head and recognizes that the three women have skills she can use in the investigation. I also enjoyed the witty language. The three women all differ remarkably, yet they put their skills together and create good detectives.


The Book Whisperer Dips Into an Unusual Genre For Her


Once again, I’ve moved WAY out of my comfort zone in reading Dark Country by Monique Snyman, a book I received from BookTrib. Receiving the book from BookTrib in no way colors my review. I don’t read normally read horror. However, I decided to throw caution to the winds, so to speak, and jump into Dark Country, the first in the Dark Country series, to be followed by False Prophet. The series is billed as “an exciting horror series that highlights the multicultural mythologies, magic, histories, beauty, and horror of living in a pseudo-modern South Africa.” In the “Author’s Note” at the beginning, Snyman tells readers that “Dark Country is thus a fictional tale with one foot in reality.”

While the horror portion of the story gives me pause, I find many attributes to like in Snyman’s Dark Country. Esmé Snyder, Occult Crime Expert, is the main character; Esmé works with the police on special cases, those involving the occult and paranormal. Like many other readers, I find Esmé a compelling character. I also like the fact that she dresses well. She refers to her choice of clothing and footwear often throughout the story. I enjoyed those references.

Do not be misled by Esmé and her fashion sense, however. Esmé is whip-smart and carefully observes her surroundings as well as the crime scenes. Conversant in the occult and paranormal as well as South African history of ritual killings and muti-killings, Esmé is the expert needed.

Muti-killings refer to “ritual murders, a form of human sacrifice practiced by some African tribes.” The body parts harvested are used in rituals and magic. The police have discovered a body in a field and call Esmé into the investigation because of her expertise and the body’s link to possible muti-killings.

As mentioned earlier, I did find more to the story than the horror. Readers will be interested in the personal relationships that develop in the story, especially between Esmé and her colleague Howlen, a police consultant. Howlen’s expertise lies in identifying the loopholes that criminals might use in their defense. Howlen does his best to plug those holes before they can damage a case.

The repartee between Esmé and Howlen is also another draw. They are working on very dark cases, but they find ways to lighten the moment on occasion through their verbal sparring.

The story will keep readers turning pages because danger lurks in every dark corner. Esmé must be on her toes constantly because she is facing down a serial killer who uses the paranormal in his killings. Is he also stalking Esmé? How will she catch him and when?

Book club leaders must know their members when choosing any books, of course! Dark Country will provide much fodder for discussion including the occult, paranormal, rituals in South Africa, and personal relationships.

Monique Snyman was born in Pretoria, South Africa. Snyman uses her exposure to many cultures, languages, religions, and class differences in her writings. The Night Weaver and The Bone Carver, part of the Night Weaver series, were both nominated for the Bram Stoker Award.

The Book Whisperer Recommends Stories Featuring Found Families


I truly enjoy stories that feature found families. Estefania Velez, Library Information Assistant at the New York Public Library, defines found family this way: “The Found Family or Family of Choice trope refers to a device in literature and media where characters find themselves united in a family-bond based on shared experiences, mutual understanding, and interpersonal connection.” Several books in my recent readings fit into this trope, and I can highly recommend all of them.

Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley involves a group of extremely disparate people who come together to help one another. They begin by appearing to have nothing in common except that they ride the same train to work or school each day. In the beginning, they not only do not speak to one another, they each make assumptions about the others that may or may not be accurate. One incident sparks a chance encounter that continues to grow among the characters. Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting is a novel that will warm readers’ hearts.

The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle by Matt Cain is another book that develops into a found family. Albert, soon turning 65, has spent his life closed off from others. Even his co-workers at the post office receive little more than a hello in the mornings and a goodbye in the evenings. The people on his postal route receive curt nods or hellos as well. Then Albert learns that he faces mandatory retirement at 65. Completely alone, Albert decides to look up someone from fifty years ago, a high school classmate. In order to find this lost friend, Albert needs help. That’s when he begins opening up to those around him, starting with a young single mother who is on his postal route. He turns to her for help with his new smartphone, and the world begins to change for Albert and those around him. Albert’s story will take readers on an unexpected journey.

The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner also features found family in bringing together three women who find they have married the same man, but who has used different names. Along with the three women, there are two children in the mix. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake also features in the story to add drama and danger.

TJ Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea provides readers with another story featuring strangers who come together to create a loving family. Klune has added magical children to the mix. Six unusual children live in an orphanage on an island with Arthur Parsassus as the children’s caretaker. Linus Baker, a caseworker for the Department of Magical Youth, goes to evaluate the care at the home. Readers will enjoy the story as they learn about the children and their various powers, but the most important power is love.

For a story that is a bit more offbeat, read Hotel Silence by Auour Ava Olafsdottir. Jónas Ebeneser is turning fifty, divorced, and at a crisis in his life. His ex-wife adds insult to his already declining life by telling him an awful truth. He decides he will commit suicide, but he doesn’t want his daughter to find his lifeless body, so he chooses n unnamed place that has just been through a war. He books a stay at the Hotel Silence. Once there, though, he meets the hotel’s brother and sister who run the place. The sister also has a young son. Jónas decides he can’t have them find his body either. Instead, he starts helping repair damages in the hotel. Soon, other people in the small town are asking for his help as well. He continues to put his plan for suicide on hold and he becomes more and more involved with the townspeople, thus changing his own life.

For young readers, 9 – 11, Front Desk by Kelly Yang gives yet another look at found families. Mia Tang has her own family of mom and dad, but the small hotel they run for a mean owner, Mr. Yao, becomes the backdrop for Mia and her parents to meet a small group of people who call the home on a permanent basis. They form a larger family because of shared needs. Yang bases the story on her own experiences with her family of immigrating to the US and running a small hotel before her parents are able to buy it for themselves. While the story is for young readers, older readers will enjoy learning about Mia and her found family too.

The Book Whisperer Insists You Read The Seamstress of New Orleans!


My sister suggested that I read The Seamstress of New Orleans by Diane C. McPhail. When I picked up the book, I was immediately drawn into the story., so much so that I could not stop reading. Taking a brief break to cook and eat dinner, I finished the book in one day!

The story takes place in 1900 focusing on two recent widows, Alice Butterworth and Constance Halstead. When the story opens, we meet Constance who lives in New Orleans in comfort with her husband Benton and two young daughters along with a loyal servant Analee. Alice’s story begins on a farm in an unnamed prairie state, but her mother sends Alice to Chicago to seek a new life for herself since Alice’s two brothers will inherit the family farm, leaving Alice only to find a husband if she remains. Luckily, Alice’s mother has taught Alice how to sew. In fact, the two women are quite talented artists as seamstresses. This talent will take Alice to Chicago and later to New Orleans, giving her a lifeline.

Working in a tailor shop in Chicago, Alice meets Howard Butterworth who comes to the shop to have a skirt altered for his mother who lives in Memphis. Howard is taken with Alice and asks her to have dinner with him. At first, she refuses, but then she decides to go. They have a brief courtship and marry. Howard is secretive and tells Alice he travels between Memphis and Chicago for his work in the cotton industry. He is often gone for days at a time. Then one day, he simply does not return.

The story returns to Constance and her family in New Orleans; her husband Benton also travels for his work in the cotton industry, but between New Orleans and Chicago. The marriage, like Alice’s marriage to Howard, is fraught with problems because Benton has a gambling problem. Readers also receive hints of a more secretive nature in Benton.

How do Alice and Constance meet and what connection do they have? The story unfolds with precision as the two women’s worlds collide. Alice, hunting for Howard, heads to Memphis only to learn that the address he had mentioned for his mother is really an area of gambling dens and prostitution, so she returns to the train and goes to New Orleans, looking to escape Chicago’s cold winters and find a new life.

Alice’s talent as a seamstress earns her a job at an orphanage in New Orleans. As it happens, Constance is a volunteer who helps raise money for the orphanage. Read The Seamstress of New Orleans to see how Alice and Constance, two women from quite different worlds, end up as friends, really sisters at heart. This story will captivate readers leaving them with a satisfying and memorable ending.

The Book Whisperer Makes a New Demand: Read I Must Betray You!


Ruta Sepetys does not shy away from stories that are hard to tell. She delves into history and researches some of the most devastating pieces of history to bring the stories to light. I Must Betray You, set in Romania in 1989, will take readers into a time of deprivation and difficulty, but the story will ultimately lead readers to the end of a dictator’s regime and freedom for the people of Romania.

I Must Betray You centers on Cristian Florescu, 17, who lives in Bucharest, Romania, and his family and friends. Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife Elena, called “Mother Elena,” rule Romania by keeping the people subdued, hungry, fearful, and cold in the winter. The government lowers the power even on extremely cold days and nights as another way of controlling people. While the people live in poverty and deprivation, Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu live in luxury.

By 1989, Communist regimes are falling. Cristian longs for freedom, but he knows the danger he faces for even considering a democracy. Like so many other citizens of all ages, Cristian is recruited to be an informer. Like others before him, he chafes under this requirement, but he has to comply. Cristian, however, believes he can use his status as an informer to make some positive changes.

Cristian has some advantage over other informers. His mother works as a cleaner for the Van Dorn family. Mr. Van Dorn was the American ambassador in Romania. Cristian often goes to the apartment to walk his mother home after work so she won’t be alone. As a result, Cristian meets Dan Van Dorn, the teenaged son of the ambassador. Cristian hopes he can use this opportunity of being in the Van Dorn home to leave some sensitive information.

Along with being forced into being an informer, Cristian worries about his beloved grandfather who is ill with leukemia and cannot get appropriate medical care. As an informer, Cristian is promised medicine for his grandfather, but Cristian knows better than to believe he will actually receive the medicine. Still, he holds onto hope. Romanians must barter for necessary items. They use Kents as their money when they need items or services.

Readers also follow Cristian in school and in his falling in love with fellow high school student Liliana. Cristian cannot tell anyone that he is an informer and yet he must betray the ones he loves when he is called in to report. He tries to keep the reports benign.

The story is horrifying at times. In December, 1989, demonstrations against Nicolae Ceaușescu began in Timisoara. Nicolae Ceaușescu planned to speak in Bucharest shortly after the news of the Timisoara riots. People gathered, ostensibly to listen to his speech, but they began protesting as well. A full-fledged riot broke out with soldiers shooting citizens of all ages and arresting others. Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu fled the country, but were quickly captured and returned to stand trial. They were both found guilty and executed immediately.

I appreciated the epilogue at the end of the book to give readers information on the lives of those who survived the riots. I Must Betray You will be a story that book club members will not quickly forget. It will also generate a great deal of discussion.

The Book Whisperer Discovers a Perplexing Novel


Stepping out of my comfort zone once again, I read The Other Side of Night by Adam Hamdy. Of his work, Hamdy says, “I write topical, thought-provoking novels that aim to entertain, and I love lived research, so the events in my books are often inspired by real events.” Novelist Karin Slaughter describes The Other Side of Night as “a surprising and cleverly constructed roller-coaster read.” I must admit to some confusion on my part at the beginning of the story.

Once I settled into the story, I followed the events easily. The characters include Harriet Kealty, a disgraced police officer, Ben Elmys, and David and Elizabeth Asha, both believed to be dead, along with Elliot Asha. Elmys has become Elliot’s guardian following the deaths of Elliot’s parents. The story becomes more complicated when readers learn that Harriet and Ben have dated. In fact, Harriet believes Ben to be her soulmate.

When Harriet finds a mysterious inscription in a used book, she begins an investigation into the reason for the note and the person behind it. The note reads as follows: “Help me, He’s trying to kill me.”

Since the story is not told in a linear fashion, readers may find the facts of the story confusing at first. Keep reading to discover the full story.

The Book Whisperer Insists You Read For Those Who Are Lost!


To be candid, I had decided to take a hiatus from reading WWII historical fiction. I have read a great deal set before, during, and after WWII, so I thought I should branch out a bit. Then I discovered For Those Who Are Lost by Julia Thomas. The premise of the story immediately captured my attention. So I suspended my hiatus; after all, flexibility is the hallmark of a good reader!

Lily Mathews Carrelives on the idyllic island of Guernsey. She is married to a handsome, wealthy, well-respected man. On the outside, their marriage appears to be ideal. However, only Lily knows of the abuse behind closed doors. When Lily learns children are being evacuated from Guernsey in advance of impending German occupation, she determines she can leave Ian, her abusive husband, along with the children.

At the waiting bus, Lily sees her sister Helen, a teacher in the primary school, with some of her students. Lily offers to take Helen’s place in shepherding the children into England. Lily’s plan, ill-formed, is to get to England and make her way to Cornwall where she will build a new life for herself. Helen really does not want to leave Guernsey, so she agrees, although hesitantly, to Lily’s plan.

Lilly takes Henry, 9, and Catherine, 4, Simon to help them on the trip. Lily realizes that Catherine needs more protection than Henry, so she puts a ten-pound note into Henry’s bag and urges him onto a train to Manchester. Henry expects that Lily and Catherine will follow him aboard. Henry has promised his parents, Ava and Joe that he will take care of Catherine. Imagine his surprise when he gets on the train and Lily and Catherine are not behind him.

In a moment that will change her life forever, Lily takes Catherine’s hand and finds a way to Cornwall, assuring herself that she is doing the right thing in protecting a child so young and vulnerable. As indicated, Lily’s life will forever be changed, but so will Catherine’s.

Over the course of the story told through Ava’s, Henry’s, and Lily’s points of view, readers discover the full effect of Lily’s decision. Catherine becomes Lily’s daughter; then Lily falls in love and marries Peter Ashby, vicar at Holy Trinity Church in Saint Austell, Cornwall. Peter is a loving husband to Lily and a devoted father to Catherine.

At the end of the story, an adult Catherine picks up the thread and describes her life before Lily, with Lily and Peter, and after learning of her birth parents and her brother. This part of the story is equally as touching as the previous one.

For book clubs, For Those Who Are Lost will generate a lively discussion. Some will believe that Lily’s decision to separate Henry and Catherine is wrong and selfish on Lily’s part. Others will disagree. Lily’s secrets haunt her and that will certainly be a point of discussion.

For Those Who Are Lost is based on the true story of the many children who were evacuated to safer locations during WWII. I’ve read a great deal about children from London, particularly, but this story focuses on Guernsey and the children from there. It is a compelling story and highly recommended.

The Book Whisperer Finds a New Mystery Series


Belonging to a mystery book club has opened my horizons to new authors. I enjoy mysteries and seek out new authors on my own, but the book club has added to my TBR list. The latest author to cross my path is Patricia Skalka whose novels are set in WI in Door County. For the book club, we read Death in Cold Water which is the third in the series, so I will have to go back and start with the first in the series to get the full picture. Skalka will soon publish book seven in the series starring Sheriff Dave Cubiak.

Cubiak, a former Chicago homicide detective, has been in Door County for four years, building a new life for himself. Like so many detectives, both PIs and police, Cubiak has tragedy in his past. What has been a routine day turns into an investigation involving the FBI as well as Sheriff Cubiak. Gerald Sneider, wealthy philanthropist and ardent Green Bay Football supporter, has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom.

Andrew Sneider, Gerald’s only son, reports that his father is missing. When Cubiak and his deputy Mike Rowe investigate, they find a ransom note inside Gerald’s home. The home is well-protected with an alarm system, so Gerald must have entered the code himself or given it to someone else.

As the investigation continues, Cubiak discovers much about Gerald Sneider. Is he the great man as proclaimed? What are the skeletons in his closet? As Cubiak learns more, his dog also discovers a human bone in the sand near the shore. Cubiak cannot shake his conviction that he needs to investigate this bone and see if there are others in the water near the shore.

As readers continue, they will discover the truth about Gerald Sneider and his greatness. The bones found on the shore also have a connection to Gerald which will turn the investigation on its head. The story opens slowly with Gerald’s disappearance. However, it picks up momentum quickly and pulls readers into a double mystery: why has Gerald been abducted and what do the bones found in the lake have to do with the story?

I enjoy books in a series because the reappearance of characters in the stories allows the author to show readers how the characters develop and grow over time. Patricia Skalka has created a good story with authentic characters.

I also discovered this information about Door County. It is on a peninsula that “juts out between the pristine waters of Green Bay and Lake Michigan in northern WI.” Artists, musicians, outdoor enthusiasts, and tourists are drawn to the area each year.

The Book Whisperer Highly Recommends The Lost Girls of Willowbrook


Make no mistake, my reading friends, parts of The Lost Girls of Willowbrook by Ellen Marie Wiseman make for very difficult reading. At the same time, the story of Willowbrook State School is one that needs telling. Some readers may remember Geraldo Rivera’s expose of Willowbrook in 1972. Rivera exposed the horrors of girls being kept in conditions so bad that they rival that of a concentration camp.

The girls were mistreated in every way imaginable. The so-called caretakers were downright cruel. The food was substandard and rationed to the point of nearly starving the girls there. These are the facts that Wiseman includes in the fictional story of Sage Winters who is searching for her identical twin sister Rosemary at Willowbrook.

For six years, Sage has thought her sister Rosemary had died of pneumonia when she was in the hospital. Sage’s mother and stepfather refused to allow Sage to attend the funeral. Now, six years later, Sage’s mother is dead; Sage has not heard from her biological father in years. Sage overhears her stepfather talking with his drinking buddy that Rosemary is missing from Willowbrook.

Sage is stunned to learn that her sister is alive, but that now she is missing. Sage knows little about Willowbrook State School except that it is a shadowy place. Determined to find out what has happened to Rosemary, Sage takes the bus to Willowbrook. That decision to find her sister places Sage in a terrible ordeal because the people at Willowbrook are convinced that Sage is Rosemary since they are identical twins. One sign of Rosemary’s illness is that she sometimes claims to be Sage. The people at Willowbrook will not believe Sage about her identity.

Unfortunately, while Sage is on the bus, someone steals her purse, leaving her no way to prove her identity. Sage is locked away as Rosemary and the nightmare begins. The story will horrify readers at the same time as they hold on to hope that Sage can find out what happened to Rosemary and also extricate herself from Willowbrook.

This is no spoiler to say that Sage does succeed in getting to the truth of what has happened to her sister and countless other girls under the so-called care of the staff at Willowbrook. Readers will discover a satisfying ending to The Lost Girls of Willowbrook.

For book clubs, members will certainly find a great deal to discuss: the mistreatment of girls, the horrible conditions, the cruel caretakers, but also Sage’s resilience and determination to succeed in finding out the truth about her sister.

I received an advance copy of The Lost Girls of Willowbrook in exchange for my unbiased review. Wiseman tackles tough subjects with a deft touch, using her extensive research to develop a fictional story based on what she has learned. She creates characters readers care about and root for. Wiseman also gives readers satisfying endings, not sweetness and light, but realistic endings about how the characters find the strength to persevere and to create good lives for themselves despite a difficult past.

The Book Whisperer Discovers a Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village


For all of us who love British TV shows, especially ones like Midsomer Murders, Father Brown, Sister Boniface, Miss Marple, and Hercule Poirot, to name a few, Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village by Maureen Johnson and Jay Cooper is a MUST!

The book opens with a quote from Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes: “It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.”

The quotation from Doyle is followed by “A Note to the Gentle Reader.” That note warns the reader quite explicitly: “My advice: Stick to urban areas. Do not go to the countryside. Dispose of this book, and continue on with your life.” The authors further warn that by committing the information in Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village could save your life should you persist in your fantasy of visiting a quaint English village!

The book is a pure delight and includes drawings reminiscent of artist Edwin Gorey. Johnson and Cooper have included diagrams of villages. Each page explains what happens in the places mentioned and warns the readers repeatedly to take heed! The book is deliciously fun.