Tag Archives: mystery

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust

book cover of As Chimney Sweepers Come to DustAuthor: Alan Bradley
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Mystery
Length: 392 pages

There isn’t a good way to discuss this book without spoiling the previous. If you haven’t read The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, you may not want to read on.

Yaroo, a new Flavia book! I dearly love Flavia de Luce. I read this series to see what sorts of shenanigans Flavia gets into and how she works her way out of them, not because I’m really engaged the mystery. Given the end of the last book, I was nervous about The Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust. What would a Flavia story be like without her father, her sisters, and Dogger? Without Buckshaw?

On many counts, Flavia works really well in a different environment (her dramatic insistence that she has been “Banished!” for example or her plotting out how she would poison her chaperone). She’s still getting in and out of trouble, being clever and wonderful, doing chemistry, and making me laugh aloud. The boarding school setting and strange Nide, secret society intrigue were also interesting if a bit over the top.

Bradley spends a lot of time building the world of Miss Bodycoate’s. There is a dizzying cast of girls with as many names and nicknames as a Tolstoy novel. Even by the end, they all seemed very similar. I had trouble keeping them apart.

My biggest struggle, however, was with the end of the book, which seemed to negate the entire point of the book.

3 stars to As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust because it’s Flavia and I still enjoy reading about her quite a bit, but this was definitely a weaker entry in the series.

I received an advanced copy of As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


How to Fall….off a cliff?

 How to Fall

Title:  How to Fall
Author: Jane Casey
Rating: 4.5 stars
Genre: Young Adult Mystery
352 pages


 Jess Tennant is a little less than thrilled about being hauled to a small English town by her mother to visit family they’ve never met and her mother doesn’t talk about. Jess is even more surprised to learn that her cousin Freya died in what appears to be a freak accident and could be her long lost twin. As she copes with meeting new family, and shocking a town with her appearance, Jess begins to delve into the world that Freya lived. Soon Jess begins asking questions that no one seems to want answers to such as, did Freya kill herself, did she just happen to fall by accident, or was it something more sinister? It seems that the people of this sleepy town have a lot to hide.

All in all I loved it. Jane Casey is one of those authors on my “Read Everything They Publish” list. She writes some great mysteries that I can’t stop telling people about. I absolutely love her and this venture into YA is right up my alley combining two of my favorite things: murder and young adults!

I loved the creation of Jess and felt that she was very believable. I didn’t feel as if her fascination with Freya was far fetched. All the characters had the right amount of personality where they could have been real. I couldn’t help picturing this as a tv show and easily visualizing everything that was happening and all the characters.

One thing I quite enjoyed was the sort of uninterested, slightly aggressive flirting. Jess would act as if she cared less about Will, but then she would find herself thinking about him and admiring him, then chastising herself.

One problem I had was that I didn’t find the killer to be believable. It seemed a little far fetched, so that lead me to dropping it down from 5 stars. Typically, I am right there with Jane Casey, but she kind of lost me on this one.

I really was hoping to get more out of the situations with Will’s dad. There seemed to be a lot of potential in that story and almost as though the author was hoping to explore that avenue, but maybe in another story? Perhaps that tale wasn’t right for this one, I could see that. I am hoping that the situations involving him are explored more in the next book, which I am so excited for!

In the grand scheme of things, this was a great read and I recommend it for those that like their mysteries, but perhaps aren’t into the ones that are super dark and want some young adult elements.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of How to Fall from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Time-Traveling Serial Killer Alert!

book cover for The Shining Girls by Lauren BeukesTitle: The Shining Girls
Author: Lauren Beukes
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Pages: 375 pages
Rating: 4 stars


The trailer for The Shining Girls is stellar. Seriously. I usually don’t like book trailers and I liked this one. It seems like a movie trailer and also gives you a great sense of the book.

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Oh, Aector

book cover of Sorrow Bound by David Mark

Title: Sorrow Bound
Author: David Mark
Series: Aector McAvoy #3
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 352 pages
Rating: 4 stars (Madeleine) 4.5 stars (Zelda)


The ever-lovable, lumbering police detective Aector McAvoy returns for his third book in Sorrow Bound. When Philippa Longman is found brutally murdered, Aector and Pharaoh are at a bit of a loss to understand why. The woman was well-loved, kind, and dedicated to improving her local neighborhood. Philippa’s death is followed by another murder, and the only connection between the two is that both saved the life of a man years ago. But who would kill someone for being a good samaritan?

Aector’s personal life is also a source of stress. Aector and Roisin are preparing to move into a house that they may or may not be able to afford. After standing up for a friend and confronting a drug dealer (okay, and stealing his money), Roisin becomes the target of the local crime lords. And in other parts of Hull, DC Helen Tremberg finds herself in a sticky situation after attracting the attentions of a man who seems to be too good to be true.


Madeleine: Let’s be honest: what keeps me coming back to this series is Aector. He is such an atypical fictional detective in a world of hardboiled, jaded detectives with destroyed personal lives. Aector is a genuinely good person who constantly worries about being a good person and deeply loves his wife and family. I love reading about a detective who isn’t sure about actions to take, who can’t quite maintain a professional distance and often finds himself bewilderedly comforting grieving family members, and who blushes whenever someone teases him. I especially loved this description of Aector:

“She remembers their first meeting. Remembers that agonizing walk from Queen’s Gardens to Hull Crown Court. It had rained the night before and the damp pavements were patterned with the crushed shells of snails that had not got out of the way as the city’s commuters began their walks to work. McAvoy had kept stopping every five or six steps to pick up any snail he thought was in harm’s way. He filled his pockets with them then ran back to Queen’s Garned to put them safely on the grass.”

The man saved snails!

Zelda: The snail story was perhaps one of my favorite parts of the book!! I love that while Aector struggles with work and his family, he at least has a family to go home to. I love reading about jaded detectives as much as the next owl, but someone has to be happy, right?

Madeleine: The only other detective similar to Aector that I can think of is Maeve Kerrigan from series by Jane Casey. I’ve only read the first book, but Maeve brings a fresh perspective as an early-career detective who is also concerned with doing the right thing and not 100% sure what to do at all times. In fact, now I want a crossover series with Maeve and Aector teaming up and being awesome together. Pharaoh can join too.

Zelda: I simultaneously want to go drinking with Pharaoh, but also find her so intimidating I hope we never meet. She seems so fun and yet terrifying. It’s a thrilling combination, I suppose. Jane Casey is fantastic. I love Maeve and can’t wait to get her next book, which is in cataloging as I type. 🙂

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Murder in Libraries, sans Agatha Christie

Chapter One

With his back pressed close again the door of the police station, Carty Rand stood gloomily staring across the street. Should he go up to the Press Club and play poker with the gang, or spend the next hour improving his mind at the public library?

-Murder in a Library

Title: Murder in a Library
Author: Charles J. Dutton
Rating: 3 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Length: 302 pages


Carty Rand is a young newspaper reporter. He’s assigned to cover stories surrounding police work and the public library. So when he finds the reference librarian, Ruby Merton, murdered in her office next to a reading room full of people, he can’t help but investigate. Rand is joined by a police inspector (Kent), the chief of police (Rogan), and a popular professor of abnormal psychology (Manners), in an investigation that takes them from the library to the local speakeasy, but they are all puzzled. As they repeat ad nauseum, who would ever kill a librarian, and why?


I came across Murder in a Library by chance, while I was searching for a different missing book at the library. Flipping open an original copy from 1931 the overwhelming hardboiled detective vibe was strong from page one (spoiler alert: Carty Rand chooses to go to the library). I was instantly charmed and checked it out. Here’s another snippet from the first chapter:

Crossing the floor he paused at the delivery desk and for a few moments joked with the efficient looking girl who was in charge. Because of the storm the room was almost deserted and the assistant had plenty of time at her disposal. There were at least twenty girls on the staff and Rand knew them all…

And now every one of you who has ever worked in a library is thinking, “Oh, he’s one of those types.”

Honestly, I enjoyed this book simply for the era and attitude it captures, but it was not a good book. Rather, reading Murder in a Library was a so-bad-it’s-good situation. The writing is sloppy, and Dutton oddly repeats himself all the time. The mystery wasn’t particularly engaging. Oh, and the old librarian stereotypes (and sexism) are very strong in this one. Poor Ruby Merton, the reference librarian, comes off as a pretty unpleasant character. Here’s a taste of how she’s described:

  • “…A funny, repressed neurotic, whom life had soured, who, to say the least, was not well liked.”
  • “No one had ever called the reference librarian good-looking; there were many who said she was just the opposite. Eccentric in everything she did, like many of her type, her clothes ran to vivid, extreme colors.”
  • “Why should anyone kill that harmless, neurotic old maid? True she had a sharp tongue, caused no doubt by the fact that most of the prizes of life had passed her by, but to murder her—the thought was absurd. Yet she had been murdered. That reality could not be escaped.”

Ouch. It reminds me of It’s a Wonderful Life when the fact that Mary is an unmarried librarian is just about the worst thing George can imagine:

Mary Bailey as an unmarried librarian in It's A Wonderful Life

George: Please, Clarence, where’s my wife? Tell me where my wife is.
Clarence: You’re not going to like it, George.
George: Where is she? What happened to her?
Clarence: She became an old maid. She never married.
George: Where is she? Where is she?
Clarence: She’s…she’s just about to close up the library!

The book is pretty short, and if you want to read it, a scanned version of Murder in a Library is available for free on HathiTrust!


The Burning

Book Cover of The Burning by Jane Casey

Title: The Burning
Author: Jane Casey
Series: Maeve Kerrigan #1
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 368 pages
Rating: 4 stars


A serial killer, named the Burning Man, is murdering and then burning the bodies of young women in London, leaving very little evidence behind for police to follow. DC Maeve Kerrigan becomes deeply involved in the case when the fifth victim is found, Rebecca Haworth. Initially assumed to be the work of the Burning Man, there are a few details that are different in Rebecca’s case, leading Maeve to dig deeper into Rebecca’s lives and the lives of those around her, including an old college friend and an ex-boyfriend.


I’ll admit, it’s been awhile since I actually read this book, so details are a bit fuzzy. What I do remember is that I really enjoyed it. While the book blurb makes it sound like the story will be about the serial killer, in reality the focus is on Maeve’s investigation of Rebecca’s death. The story actually alternates between Maeve’s point-of-view and that of Rebecca’s old college friend, Louise.

The mystery and the story were interesting, but pretty straightforward. What I liked the most about the book was Maeve’s character. Maeve’s a very driven, insightful female detective whose trying to make it in a field dominated by men. I appreciated that Maeve could hold her own on the force and stand up for herself when needed without becoming an overly one-dimensional “strong” female character. I don’t usually enjoy hardboiled, jaded detectives. Maeve’s voice was refreshing.

I definitely want to continue with this series someday.

I received an free ebook copy of The Burning through NetGalley, as part of the promotion for the newest book in the series, The Stranger You Know.

The Secret of Magic

Rating: 3.75 stars 

Genre: Mystery

Length: 402 pgs

Synopsis: While on a bus traveling through Alabama on his way home from WWII, decorated officer Joe Howard Wilson is ordered, along with the other blacks on the bus, to give up their seats for German POWs. Upset that having fought for the United States in the war hasn’t changed attitudes in the American South coupled with disdain for the Nazis he was asked to move for, Wilson refused. The bus continued on its way, but arrived at its destination minus one black soldier. Wilson’s body turns up two weeks later.

A few months or a year later (the timeline isn’t perfectly clear) a letter shows up at Thurgood Marshall’s office with the NAACP. One of the young lawyers, Regina Robichard, is surprised when she recognizes the sender of the letter as the author of one of her favorite books from childhood, The Secret of Magic. The letter urges someone from their office to come down to help with an investigation of Joe Howard’s death and Regina convinces Marshall that she should be the one to do it. Thus Regina, a young black woman lawyer from New York City, travels to the Jim Crow South to find a murderer.

Review: There’s no magic! Often I’ll request books months before their release after seeing them on GoodReads or in BookPage or somewhere and then by the time they come in for me, I’ve completely forgotten what they were about. That happened in this case. I got this book from the library and it’s called The Secret of Magic and there are fairy lights in the trees on the cover, so I assume something fantasy-ish, but instead I got murder. Which is fine – I like murder, but it’s a bit like thinking you’re going to eat ice cream and then it turns out to be frozen yogurt. Both are good, but my brain wasn’t quite ready. So here’s your warning: there is no magic in this book.

Other than the whole “no-magic” thing, I actually really enjoyed this book. I loved the character of Regina! She was such an interesting character. Her father had been lynched when she was very young and her mother had turned into kind of a crusader for civil rights, but Regina had never been outside of New York City. When she made her way to a small town in Mississippi, she was completely overwhelmed with the differences between the way the races were treated and how they interacted with each other. She had heard second hand about segregation, but what she didn’t expect was how there were black and white people everywhere. In New York City, people of different races stayed in their own neighborhoods and she had never really talked to a white person before. I think my favorite character, however, was Mary Pickett Calhoun. Regina was surprised to get the letter from this famous white author, especially when she reaches Mississippi and find that the lead suspect is the son of a former flame. The murdered man and his father had worked for and Mary Pickett’s family for generations, in fact, since before slavery was abolished, so she felt she had to do something to avenge the death, but was also just starting to come to terms with the town’s inherent bigotry. All in all, the murder mystery serves as a backdrop to a character study of small town Southern life in the late 1940s and its themes definitely stuck with me after finishing it.