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Not All Tarts are Apple by Pip Granger (2002)

NotAllTarts_UK_largeSeven-year-old Rosie, who lives with her aunt and uncle in the Old Compton Street Café, is the darling of their Soho neighborhood.  Her low-class neighbors are made up of con men, thieves, shady lawyers, fortune tellers, pimps and prostitutes.  One day, a girl at school tells everyone that Rosie’s mum is a tart.

Rosie’s world is turned upside down and she fears her secure life with her aunt and uncle will come to an end.  What transpires is a hilarious tale of good guys and bad guys told from a little girl’s perspective.  Pip Granger’s Not All Tarts are Apple is a charming and entertaining story.  The British vocabulary just adds to the good old humor.

The Archbishop in Andalusia by Andrew M. Greeley (2008)

archbishopThe reader is greatly assisted by the floor plan of La Dona Teresa’s Palacio showing the bedroom where she was attacked (she readily survived) and the courtyard pool where attractive ladies sat, in full view from the windows, enjoying the warm Spanish sun. The first pages of The Archbishop in Andalusia also include a much-needed name list of the Spanish aristocrats and other characters in the story.

While Archbishop John Blackwood "Blackie" Ryan is visiting Cardinal Diego Sanchez y Romanos, El Moro in Seville, the good Cardinal organizes a dinner party in Blackie’s honor and seats him next to the beautiful and disturbing Dona Teresa. Subsequently Blackie becomes Dona’s spiritual advisor and helps solves the locked door mystery shrouding her brutal attack. Dona Teresa is beset by live-in relatives who would interfere with her choice of spouse and gain control of her resources, but Blackie intervenes to find who is responsible for the Duchess’ misfortunes.

If you enjoy this Blackie Ryan installment, check out Andrew M. Greeley’s other works.

The Murder Man by Tony Parsons (2014)

murdermanAfter a transfer from the anti-terrorism unit to homicide, DC Max Wolfe is immediately involved in the investigation into the grisly murder of investment banker Hugo Buck. When a homeless man is killed soon after in the same way, it seems there's a serial killer on the loose who specifically targeted both men. What is the connection between the victims and will there be more deaths before Max and his colleague, DCI Mallory, discover the identity of the killer?

In this first book in the Max Wolfe series, author Tony Parsons creates an interesting main character who struggles to raise his five-year-old daughter, Scout, on his own, while mourning the loss of his wife. He is also able to craft a puzzle that keeps you guessing until the end. The Murder Man is a good read-alike for those who enjoy the Mark Tartaglia series by Elena Forbes.

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain (2014)

silentsisterIt's usually pretty easy to get quickly drawn in by Diane Chamberlain's novels, and this one does not disappoint. In fact, The Silent Sister is a great page-turner.

Riley MacPherson is the protagonist in this story. She is a young woman in her mid-twenties who has the unpleasant and depressing job of clearing out her childhood home after her father passes away. She discovers that her family kept many secrets during the time she was growing up, including a really huge one concerning her older sister. Very enjoyable!

Brunswick Gardens by Anne Perry (1998)

brunswickgardensIn Brunswick Gardens, Anne Perry presents a good mystery that brings in social issues of the 19th century that are still in play today – women’s rights and evolution versus creationism. The characters reveal their feelings to these issues in a believable and interesting way. The “who-dun-it” part is enjoyable too with many subtle hints and clues from the characters.

The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre (2001)

constantgardenerA gruesome murder of Tessa Quayle in northern Kenya sets off the action of this gripping story. The Constant Gardener is not just the story of a diplomat seeking to find those responsible for the murder of his beautiful young wife, but also a parable of the conflict between forces seeking power and money opposed by those led by human values. The title is most appropriate as Justin Quale persists in uncovering those responsible in the face of powerful and deadly opposition. The ending is sad but not unexpected as Justin in one sense does accomplish some of the goals of his most courageous wife and finds a way to reconnect with her.

Of his 23 novels, John Le Carre rates Gardener as one of his four best.

Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver (2014)

murderatbrightwellIf you’re a fan of traditional mysteries, you’ll enjoy this one. Set at a fashionable hotel on England’s southern coast in 1932 with a cast of characters right out of an Agatha Christie mystery, Murder at the Brightwell is a witty and energetic who-done-it.

Amory Ames, wealthy and dissatisfied with her life, takes a holiday at the seaside and turns detective after a fellow hotel guest turns up dead and another is suspected of foul play. The plot takes on a new dimension when her husband Milo arrives unexpectedly. Amory and Milo Ames’ off and on again marriage seems to be laying the foundation for a lively and clever new series of mystery novels by Ashley Weaver. At least I hope so.

The Messenger (2006) and The Secret Servant (2007) by Daniel Silva

messengerGabriel Allon, the Israeli spy in many of Daniel Silva’s novels, is cast against terrorist groups from al-Qaeda and the sword of Allah who would attack the Vatican and kill the Pope and/or the U.S. President should their schemes succeed. The Secret Servant follows The Messenger and includes many of the same characters and intrigues of the prior novel. These adventures give the reader a bad taste for most of the antagonists and an appreciation for Israeli secret service. The Secret Servant has an extra twist of an Arab willing to help the Israelis in an effort to save a woman’s life as well as that of his own son. In both novels, a young woman is in great danger in the hands of terrorist but Allon and his team come to the rescue.

Telling the Bees by Peggy Hesketh (2013)

tellingthebeesAlbert Honing, a beekeeper in his eighties, lives a quiet life until he discovers his two elderly neighbors, also beekeepers, murdered. Narrator Albert slowly and deliberately tells this tale of relationships and family secrets and loss. Bittersweet and wonderfully written, this tale vibrates with a mesmerizing rhythm. Albert’s bee lore regularly takes center stage and factors heavily in the story; readers will learn the poignant meaning of its title.  I listened to Telling the Bees, Peggy Hesketh’s first novel, and recommend it for those who can patiently allow Albert his story’s due.

Sycamore Row by John Grisham (2013)

sycamorerowA very rich man (Seth) kills himself by hanging and leaves much of his estate to his black caregiver by a holographic will. Of course, Seth’s family challenges the will; a jury must determine whether Seth’s handwritten will is valid.

John Grisham’s masterful storytelling leads the reader through the trial, the families’ histories and a look at justice and redemption. This is one of Grisham’s best novels set in Clanton, Mississippi, with a street lawyer (Jake) from A Time to Kill as the principal character. Grisham teases the reader to find out why a deceased man would abandon his children and grandchildren in such a manner; how he accumulated such a fortune; and what became of his brother who is mentioned in the handwritten will. Amazing characters, afflicted with greed, stupidity, racism and drink color the story in Sycamore Row and entertain the reader as he navigates through this engaging tale. For more information, read this review in the New York Times.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (2003)

curiousincidentChristopher Boone finds a dog has been killed in his neighborhood. He decides to investigate and solve the crime. Because Christopher is autistic, the story is unusual and captivating. It’s a mystery, but not really a mystery. Check out Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

The Mangle Street Murders by M. R. C. Kasasian (2014)

manglestreetRenowned London detective Sidney Grice is irascible, vain, and a genius. When he takes in a young woman as his ward, he never dreams that her humanistic approach to life will assist him in his detecting. A chance meeting with a doctor and struggling writer Arthur Conan Doyle suggests that Grice and March Middleton, his ward, will become the model for his famous detective Sherlock Holmes.

Find a copy of The Mangle Street Murders by M. R. C. Kasasian today.

A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn (2009)

beautifulplacetodieWhen an Afrikaner policeman is murdered in a remote area of South Africa, detective Emmanual Cooper is brought in to investigate. It is 1952, and the Apartheid system has recently become the law of the land. How does an honorable policeman investigate when not all witnesses are considered equal and people of different races are only allowed to associate in very proscribed ways? What is most intriguing in this story is the application of "race laws" that overrule family relationships and human behavior. Check out Malla Nunn’s A Beautiful Place to Die; for more mysteries set in Africa, see our book list.

Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany (2013)

heartlikemineGrace, a career woman in her mid-thirties, enters into a relationship with Victor, a divorced workaholic with two children. After Victor’s ex-wife passes away suddenly under mysterious circumstances, Grace is thrown into all the turmoil that unfolds. Heart Like Mine is narrated by three different females. The character development is really good. I’m looking forward to reading more books by Amy Hatvany.

The Impersonator by Mary Miley (2013)

impersonatorIn 1924, vaudevillian Leah Randall finds herself unemployed. When approached by shady Oliver Beckett with a scheme to impersonate a missing heiress and share in her inheritance, Leah is at first dismissive. When no paying roles materialize, Leah gives in and finds herself in a mansion on the Oregon coast impersonating Jessie Carr. Jessie disappeared seven years before. Is she alive, and if not, what happened to her? Could what happened to Jessie now happen to Leah? Mary Miley’s The Impersonator is a fun jazz-era mystery inspired by Josephine Tey’s Brat Farrar.