A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Murder on Trinity Place by Victoria Thompson- Feature and Review


The devil's in the details when a man is found murdered near Trinity Church in the latest installment of the national bestselling Gaslight Mystery series...

The year of 1899 is drawing to a close. Frank and Sarah Malloy are getting ready to celebrate the New Year at Trinity Church when they notice Mr. Pritchard, a relative of their neighbor's behaving oddly and annoying the other revelers. Frank tries to convince Pritchard to return home with them, but the man refuses and Frank loses him in the crowd. The next morning Sarah and Frank are horrified to learn Pritchard was murdered sometime in the night, his body left on Trinity Place, the side street near the church.

The police aren't too interested in the murder, and the family are concerned that the circumstances of the death will reflect badly on Pritchard's reputation. To protect the family from scandal, Nelson asks Frank to investigate. Frank and Sarah delve into Pritchard's past and realize there may have been a deadly side to the dawning of the new century.



Murder on Trinity Place (Gaslight Mystery, #22)Murder on Trinity Place by Victoria Thompson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Murder on Trinity Place by Victoria Thompson is a 2019 Berkley publication.

A perfect blend of history and mystery!

This is yet another long running series that never seems to lose its charm. In this episode, Frank and Sarah’s neighbor, Theda, hires Frank, after her father, a dairy owner, dies on New Year’s Eve.

Initially reluctant to take the case without giving the proper authorities the chance to investigate, it soon becomes clear the police have been paid to look the other way. So, Frank, Sarah, Maeve, and Gino embark on a most puzzling and dangerous mission to discover the truth.

I learn something new every time I read a book in this series. In this case, the story is centered around the dairy business in New York in the 1800s. Evidently, the ‘milk wars’, which I had never heard of, lead to the outlawing of ‘swill milk’- which resulted in the deaths of nearly half of the children of New York City before the age of five.

The victim in this story was a stickler for the rules and may have threatened to expose a dairy that still sold swill milk. But there are plenty of other suspects, all with a valid motive. There are several surprises and twist along the way, as well a little romantic matchmaking on Sarah’s part, which was a terrific idea for the couple in question.

As with any ongoing series, some installments are better than others. This is one of the more durable chapters in the series, which held my attention from beginning to end. If you enjoy historical mysteries, this is one of the best ones out there.

Overall, another terrific whodunit from Victoria Thompson!!







When Gino Donatelli is accused of a brutal murder, beloved sleuths Sarah and Frank Malloy have to catch a killer who is out to destroy their innocent friend's life in the latest installment of the national bestselling Gaslight mysteries.

A victim is found, brutally murdered and the police are certain they've caught the killer. Their only suspect: Gino Donatelli.

Frank and Sarah know Gino is innocent but the police have a one-track mind. Once Frank struck it rich and left their ranks taking Gino with him, there has been a simmering resentment in the department. And now, someone has pulled out all the stops to make it look like Gino is the only one who could have committed the crime.

With the clock ticking and evidence mounting against their friend, Sarah and Frank will try to unravel a treacherous plot before Gino is sent up the river for good.




Edgar® Nominated author Victoria Thompson writes the Edgar and Agatha Award nominated Gaslight Mystery Series, set in turn-of-the-century New York City and featuring midwife Sarah Brandt, and the Sue Grafton Award nominated Counterfeit Lady Series set in early twentieth century New York City and featuring con artist Elizabeth Miles. She also contributed to the award winning writing textbook MANY GENRES/ONE CRAFT. A popular speaker, Victoria teaches in the Seton Hill University master's program in writing popular fiction. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband and a very spoiled little dog.

Monday, December 30, 2019

29 Seconds by T.M. Logan- Feature and Review

From the bestselling author of LIES comes 29 SECONDS, a sensational new thriller that explores what happens when a split second thought of revenge takes on a life of its own.

“Give me one name. One person. And I will make them disappear.”

Sarah is a young professor struggling to prove herself in a workplace controlled by the charming and manipulative Alan Hawthorne, a renowned scholar and television host. The beloved professor rakes in million-dollar grants for the university where Sarah works—so his inappropriate treatment of female colleagues behind closed doors has gone unchallenged for years. And Sarah is his newest target.

When Hawthorne's advances become threatening, she’s left with nowhere to turn. Until the night she witnesses an attempted kidnapping of a young child on her drive home, and impulsively jumps in to intervene. The child’s father turns out to be a successful businessman with dangerous connections—and her act of bravery has put this powerful man in her debt. He lives by his own brutal code, and all debts must be repaid. In the only way he knows how. The man gives Sarah a burner phone and an unbelievable offer. A once-in-a-lifetime deal that can make all her problems disappear.

No consequences. No traces. No chance of being found out. All it takes is a 29-second phone call.

Because everyone has a name to give. Don’t they?



29 Seconds29 Seconds by T.M. Logan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

29 Seconds by T.M. Logan is a 2019 St. Martin’s Press publication.

Fast, furious, crazy…

But very entertaining-

Alan Hawthorne, a university professor who rakes in millions of dollars through his television show, has gotten away with exhibiting inappropriate behavior toward his female colleagues for years.

Now, he has set his sights on Sarah, a young professor trying to find her footing in the Hawthorne controlled workplace.

Although Sarah has resisted Alan, she soon finds herself ensnared in his trap. But, before things go too far, Sarah rescues a child from an attempted kidnapping, and as payment for her good deed, the child’s father offers to rid Sarah of one person in her life.

Naturally, the desire to get Alan Hawthorne out of her life makes this offer very tempting. All she needs to do is make one 29 second phone call and the one thorn in her side will disappear. Will Sarah decide to take the man up on his offer?

This is my first book by T.M Logan, so I had nothing to compare it to. Many who have read his books may have a different take on it, but I enjoyed it well enough. Is it far-fetched and implausible? Yes, and it got more so as the novel progressed. Is the conclusion a bit too tidy?

Maybe- but it was also clever, and I didn’t figure out what was going on until all was revealed.
I’d suggest going along with the premise, despite the suspension of belief required. It’s a solid thriller if one doesn’t take it too seriously.

In the long run, this book may not be especially memorable, but it kept me entertained in the here and now and at the moment that’s good enough for me.






Bestselling author TM Logan was a national newspaper journalist before turning to novel-writing full time. His debut thriller LIES was one of Amazon UK's biggest ebooks of 2017, selling 350,000 copies and gathering more than 1,400 5-star reviews so far. It was published in the USA in September 2018 and has also come out in South Korea, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Hungary, Serbia, Romania and the Netherlands.

His next thriller, 29 SECONDS, is a psychological thriller set against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement. What if someone offered you a solution to the biggest problem in your life - would you take it, if you knew you'd never be found out? Even if you knew it was wrong? What if a 29-second phone call could change your life forever?

29 SECONDS is due to be published in the USA by St Martin's Press on September 10, 2019.

Tim lives in Nottinghamshire, UK, with his wife and two children.

For exclusive writing, new releases and a FREE deleted scene from Tim, sign up to the Readers' Club: www.bit.ly/TMLogan. You can also follow him on Twitter @TMLoganAuthor, find him on Facebook at /TMLoganAuthor or on his website at www.tmlogan.com

Friday, December 27, 2019

FLASHBACK FRIDAY : Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen- Feature and Review

Filled with insights that are hallmarks of Anna Quindlen’s bestsellers, this extraordinary novel is about a woman coming of age, as she unearths secrets about her family and her town, and surprising truths about herself.

For generations the Millers have lived in Miller’s Valley. Mimi Miller tells about her life with intimacy and honesty. As Mimi eavesdrops on her parents and quietly observes the people around her, she discovers more and more about the toxicity of family secrets, the dangers of gossip, the flaws of marriage, the inequalities of friendship and the risks of passion, loyalty, and love. Home, as Mimi begins to realize, can be “a place where it’s just as easy to feel lost as it is to feel content.”

Miller’s Valley is a masterly study of family, memory, loss, and, ultimately, discovery, of finding true identity and a new vision of home. As Mimi says, “No one ever leaves the town where they grew up, even if they go.” Miller’s Valley reminds us that the place where you grew up can disappear, and the people in it too, but all will live on in your heart forever. 




Miller's ValleyMiller's Valley by Anna Quindlen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen is a 2016 Random House publication.

When this book was up for review on Netgalley, I passed on it, since I was picking up on the ‘coming of age’ vibe, which normally isn’t my cup of tea. But, after reading some very positive reviews, I changed my mind and decided to give the book a try.

For me, this book reads like a fictional memoir since the story begins with Mimi Miller as a child and follows her life all the way into her twilight years. At the heart of the story is Miller’s Valley, a town under constant threat of being flooded out by a weak dam or deliberately, in the name of progress.

Mimi is a child during the sixties, the youngest of three children. Her father, Buddy is a farmer, her mother, Miriam, is a nurse, and together they manage to scrape by. Mimi’s oldest brother Ed is ten years older than her, so they were not especially close, not like she is with her older brother, Tommy.
But, Tommy joins the Marines during the Vietnam war and comes home a changed man, and not in a good way. Also living in on the premises in her own little house is Mimi’s Aunt Ruth, a woman suffering from agoraphobia in the days before such terms were in common use.

“No one ever leaves the town where they grew up, even if they go.”

It’s true that growing up in a small town, where a tight knit feeling of community really does exist, where bonds grow between folks early on, will stick with a person in a way that growing up in a city just can’t compare.

For Mimi, the bonds built in childhood with her friends LaRhonda and Donald stay with her all through her life, through good and bad times. While these friendships can wax and wane and sometimes turn into nothing more than a nod of recognition later in life, those shared memories of childhood are forever etched into her consciousness.

Mimi is a smart girl with a very bright future, a young woman well ahead of her time, hoping to someday follow in her mother’s footsteps by joining the medical field, but taking it a step further to become a doctor. Unlike many kids who grow up in a rural area, who can’t wait to get out to begin a life in a more populated, cultured area where there are more opportunities, Mimi doesn’t mind living in Miller’s Valley and fears the unstable dam will eventually flood the town, sweeping away the only life she has ever known.

Mimi’s voice is clear, strong, poignant, wistful, nostalgic and will tug on the old heartstrings.

Her journey is bittersweet, as she relates stories from her childhood, listening to her parent’s private conversations through the heating vent, and her special relationship with Tommy, selling corn by the roadside with LaRhonda and Donald, giving us insights into her family dynamic, as we follow along, watching the characters evolve, grow up, make mistakes, deal with family crisis and death, and big life decisions and choices.

I laughed out loud in some places, especially the childhood memories of growing up in the sixties. The old fashioned values such as wearing black before a certain age gave me a chuckle. Seriously, I had that same conversation with my mother in the seventies, I kid you not. I really ‘got’ the time period, the turbulence that seemed to play out in a world outside my own, feeling sheltered from the ugliness in my little corner of the world.

So, Mimi’s story was one I could easily relate to, but as we grow older those childhood bonds somehow slip away, as the world changes, and we have no other choice but to change with it. Mimi’s life is a little more complicated by her brother Tommy’s serious postwar issues, which consumes her at times. But, she continues on her path in life, and is ultimately surprised by life’s little ironies, in a most pleasant way, which delighted me to no end.

While I was deeply absorbed in Mimi’s tale, it wasn’t until the last few chapters that it truly hit me, and it hit me hard. I found myself swallowing frequently, fighting tears as the story concludes in a way I never would have imagined.

It is so true what they say about life’s mysteries, and Mimi’s life proves that point with relish.

I would never have guessed I would have such a strong reaction to this story, and I so happy I decided to take a chance on it.





Anna Quindlen is the author of three bestselling novels, Object Lessons, One True Thing and Black and Blue, and three non-fiction books, Living Out Loud, Thinking Out Loud and A Short Guide to a Happy Life. Her New York Times column 'Public and Private' won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992. She is currently a columnist for Newsweek and lives with her husband and children in New York.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Out of the Dark by Gregg Hurwitz- Feature and Review


When darkness closes in―he's your last, best hope. Evan Smoak returns in Gregg Hurwitz’s #1 international bestselling Orphan X series.

Taken from a group home at age twelve, Evan Smoak was raised and trained as part of the Orphan Program, an off-the-books operation designed to create deniable intelligence assets―i.e. assassins. Evan was Orphan X. He broke with the Program, using everything he learned to disappear and reinvent himself as the Nowhere Man, a man who helps the truly desperate when no one else can. But now Evan's past in the Orphan Program is reaching out to him.

Someone at the very highest level of government has been trying to eliminate every trace of the Orphan Program by killing all the remaining Orphans and their trainers. After Evan's mentor and the only father he ever knew was killed, he decided to strike back. His target is the man who started the program and who is now the most heavily guarded person in the world: the President of the United States.

But President Bennett knows that Orphan X is after him and, using weapons of his own, he's decided to counter-attack. Bennett activates the one man who has the skills and experience to track down and take out Orphan X―the first recruit of the program, Orphan A.

With Evan devoting all his skills, resources, and intelligence to find a way through the layers of security that surround the President, suddenly he also has to protect himself against the deadliest of opponents. It's Orphan vs. Orphan with the future of the country―even the world―on the line.



Out of the Dark (Orphan X, #4)Out of the Dark by Gregg Hurwitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Out of the Dark by Gregg Hurwitz is a 2019 Minotaur Books publication.


Although my taste in thrillers usually leans towards different styles and directions, this series grabbed my attention right away and has quickly become one of my favorites.

This fourth installment opens with Evan Smoake-AKA "Orphan X”, plotting the assassination of the president of the United States- for good reason. It’s a kill or be killed kind of situation.

Unfortunately, for Evan, the president has a new girl on his team named, Naomi, and she’s giving Evan a good run for his money.

Meanwhile, a young man on the autism spectrum dials into the infamous ‘Nowhere Man’ hotline, just as Evan is battling his most formidable opponent to date.

So, fasten your seatbelts folks and prepare for an orphan against orphan showdown that will leave you holding on for dear life!

The Orphan X series may be long on action, but the story doesn’t depend on it or hide behind it. This is a stylish series, smart, and expertly plotted, with a nice emotional depth blended in to ensure our attachment to Evan and other recurring characters, as well.

I’m especially impressed with the way Hurwitz manages to create a dual storyline, both of which are suspenseful and urgent, amid all the chaos. While the ‘Nowhere Man’ threads are often secondary to the main plot, they are always compelling, and I love meeting the new characters and circumstances introduced in each chapter of the series. I also like the psychology behind the concept and the way good deeds are paid forward. The story featured in this chapter was especially poignant, giving Evan a chance to practice his humanity skills.

Because this is not the type of thriller I'm normally drawn to, I was afraid it could quickly and easily flame out.

However, so far, each installment has been equally riveting – but, I must say, this one just might be my favorite book in the series to date.

“Into the Fire” is slated for release in January 2020- I can’t wait!!!






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:The New York Times bestselling Orphan X returns - just when Evan Smoak thinks he's done, his deadliest job yet pulls him back Into The Fire...
Evan Smoak lives by his own code.
Once he was known as Orphan X. Trained as an off-the-books government assassin and spoken about only in whispers, Evan Smoak was one of the most talented – and most feared – men in the Program. But he broke free and reinvented himself as The Nowhere Man, a figure shrouded in mystery, known for helping the truly desperate.
If anyone is truly desperate, it’s Max Merriweather.
Max is at the end of his rope. His cousin has been brutally murdered, leaving Max an envelope that contains nothing but a mysterious key. However, someone really wants that key, badly enough that Max – and anyone he turns to – is in deadly danger. What seems like a simple job for The Nowhere Man turns out to be anything but. Behind every threat he takes out, a deadlier one emerges and Evan Smoak must put himself in greater danger than ever before as he heads once more Into The Fire.


GREGG HURWITZ is the New York Times #1 internationally bestselling author of twenty thrillers, including OUT OF THE DARK (January 2019). His novels have won numerous literary awards and have been published in thirty languages. Additionally, he's written screenplays and television scripts for many of the major studios and networks. Gregg lives with his two Rhodesian ridgebacks in Los Angeles, where he continues to play soccer, frequently injuring himself.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Mrs. Jeffries and the Alms of the Angel by Emily Brightwell- Feature and Review


When a wealthy widow is murdered, Mrs. Jeffries investigates what happens when money can't buy your life in this all- new installment in the beloved Victorian Mystery series.

Margaret Starling wasn't the sort of woman anyone expected to be murdered. She was on the advisory board of the London Angel Alms Society, an active member of St. Peter's Church and, best of all, she was always willing to lend a hand to a friend or neighbor in need of advice. So when Margaret winds up dead, the town is shocked.
As they dig deeper into the crime, Mrs. Jeffries and Inspector Witherspoon begin to wonder how well-liked Margaret really was.

Even though it's Christmas, Mrs. Jeffries and Inspector Witherspoon know it's their duty to make sure justice is served....



Mrs. Jeffries and the Alms of the Angel (Mrs. Jeffries #38)Mrs. Jeffries and the Alms of the Angel by Emily Brightwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mrs. Jeffries and the Alms of the Angels by Emily Brightwell is a 2019 Berkley publication.

This is my first book in this long running series. I have often wondered about it, but of course the sheer volume of installments gave me pause. However, it was my understanding that this is one of those series which does not require one to read them in exact order. So, I dived right in to this 38th installment, and found the author provided enough background information for me to get the gist of the premise and fill in any necessary blanks. The only drawback was my unfamiliarity with the large cast of recurring characters. Maybe someday, I’ll get to know them better, though.

As it so happens, a murder during the Christmas holiday season is something of a yearly tradition for Mrs. Jeffries and Inspector Winslow. However, it seems as though this year could be an exception- until…

By all accounts Margaret Starling is a pillar of her community. She attends St. Peter’s church and generously serves on the board of the Angel Alms Society. But, as of late, she had not at all been herself. For a woman so charitable, she had recently made a few enemies- and now she’s been found bludgeoned to death outside her home.

When Inspector Winslow is called out of his jurisdiction to investigate, the decision steps on a few toes, a situation that could thwart the investigation. But, never fear- Mrs. Jeffries is on the case with her trusty team to make sure the murder is solved before the holidays are over.

I must say, the story is charming, and the mystery is a solid whodunit. Obviously, one should expect a light, simple, clean mystery going in, which I did. Although the setup is dubious to say the least, due to the time frame- which is Victorian London- some of the improbabilities are easier to overlook. In fact, the mystery was more challenging than I anticipated, and I found myself rather enjoying it. While I will probably never attempt to read these in order, or on a regular basis, I may add one in here and there, from time to time, just for fun.

Overall, I’m glad I finally managed to satisfy my curiosity about the series, and found Mrs. Jeffries, Inspector Winslow and the entire cast enchanting!





Emily Brightwell was born in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia. Her family moved to Southern California in 1959 and she grew up in Pasadena. After graduating from California State University Fullerton, she decided to work her way around the world and started in England. She didn't get any further because she met future her husband there, got married and moved back to California. While living in Long Beach, she decided to pursue her dream and become a writer - despite having two children and a full-time job. She began the Mrs. Jeffries series in 1993 with "The Inspector and Mrs. Jeffries" and has written thirty-seven more mysteries in the series in the following twenty-four years. The latest mystery is "Mrs. Jeffries and the Alms of the Angel" - a hardcover - published September 24th 2019. Emily has contracted to write three more Mrs. Jeffries mysteries in the coming years.. Now that her children are grown and have left home - Emily and her husband live in Northern Nevada. Her books are also sold in the United Kingdom, Japan, and Hungary.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon by James Lovegrove- Feature and Review


The new Sherlock Holmes novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Age of Odin and Firefly - Big Damn Hero.

It is 1890, and in the days before Christmas Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson are visited at Baker Street by a new client. Eve Allerthorpe - eldest daughter of a grand but somewhat eccentric Yorkshire-based dynasty - is greatly distressed, as she believes she is being haunted by a demonic Christmas spirit.

Her late mother told her terrifying tales of the sinister Black Thurrick, and Eve is sure that she has seen the creature from her bedroom window. What is more, she has begun to receive mysterious parcels of birch twigs, the Black Thurrick's calling card...

Eve stands to inherit a fortune if she is sound in mind, but it seems that something - or someone - is threatening her sanity. Holmes and Watson travel to the Allerthorpe family seat at Fellscar Keep to investigate, but soon discover that there is more to the case than at first appeared. There is another spirit haunting the family, and when a member of the household is found dead, the companions realise that no one is beyond suspicion.



Sherlock Holmes & the Christmas DemonSherlock Holmes & the Christmas Demon by James Lovegrove
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon by James Lovegrove is a 2019 Titan publication.

A fun, clever, holiday mystery- Holmes & Watson style!

I have not read any of the previous Holmes & Watson mysteries written by James Lovegrove. I was a little wary about a new Sherlock Holmes mystery, written by someone other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, to be honest.

However, after indulging in my usual heartwarming and saccharine sweet holiday romances, I was looking for a good holiday murder mystery, when this book popped up on my radar. For the most part the book has received positive feedback- so I decided to give it a try.

The story examines the darker side of Christmas folklore. We all know about Santa Claus or Father Christmas, but apparently these jolly souls have evil counterpoints- or opposites- for example:

Black Thurrick, who is also said to make an appearance during the Christmas holidays, punishing children by replacing their gifts with batches of Birch Twigs.

Holmes and Watson are hired by Eve Allerthorpe to investigate the ghostly happenings at her estate, after she believes she witnessed the demon Thurrick. Not only that, Thurrick’s hallmark calling card of Birch twigs were found outside of doors or windows on occasion.

The hitch is that dear Eve is about to come into a healthy sum of money, just so long as she is deemed of sound mind. Witnessing demonic apparitions might cause one to question her sanity, which is why Holmes & Watson need to get to the bottom of things before Eve loses her inheritance- or worse- is institutionalized.

Although Eve’s family is less than welcoming, Sherlock Holmes brushes off his chilly reception and gets right down to work. What ensues is a puzzling mystery, with several nice red herrings, and some truly wonderful dialogue between Holmes and Watson.

Although Lovegrove does occasionally satirize Holmes’ uncanny powers of observation and embellishes and exaggerates his and Watson’s relationship, a bit here and there, I think the author is very sincere and takes his task very seriously. He obviously respects these classic characters and does them justice.

I thought the author did a good job with this mystery, which kept me guessing and thoroughly entertained. I suspect Lovegrove enjoyed breathing new life into the Sherlock Holmes mystery series and I for one truly enjoyed reading it!





Currently James resides in Eastbourne on the Sussex Coast, having moved there in August 2007 with his wife Lou, sons Monty and Theo, and cat Ozzy. He has a terrific view of the sea from his study window, which he doesn’t sit staring out at all day when he should be working. Honest.

Friday, December 20, 2019

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Hercule Poirot's Christmas


In Hercule Poirot's Christmas, the holidays are anything but merry when a family reunion is marred by murder — and the notoriously fastidious investigator is quickly on the case. The wealthy Simeon Lee has demanded that all four of his sons — one faithful, one prodigal, one impecunious, one sensitive — and their wives return home for Christmas. But a heartwarming family holiday is not exactly what he has in mind. He bedevils each of his sons with barbed insults and finally announces that he is cutting off their allowances and changing his will. Poirot is called in the aftermath of Simeon Lee's announcement. 



Hercule Poirot's Christmas (Hercule Poirot, #20)Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie is a 1938 publication.

A masterful Golden Age mystery!!

Simeon Lee, a difficult old man, blessed with wealth, but cursed with bad health, has invited his adult children home for the holidays. One might believe the old man has become sentimental and is hoping for a reconciliation and perhaps forgiveness from his family before he passes on.

However, that doesn’t appear to be the case. It would seem that Lee, the host of this less than cheerful gathering, is playing some dastardly tricks on the people who hope to inherit his fortune.

Unfortunately, his game backfires horribly, leaving investigators with a house full of suspects and a puzzling locked room mystery on their hands. Thankfully, Hercule Poirot has kindly offered his assistance in solving the case.

"Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?"

When I was younger, if I were to grab an Agatha Christie novel, for some reason, I always chose a Miss Marple mystery.

But, over the years Hercule Poirot became my favorite of Christie’s detectives. However, there are still many books in this series I have yet to read- and this was one of them.

While I understand that some aficionados have suggested it might be wise to read ‘Three Act Tragedy’ or ('Murder in Three Acts"), before reading this one, but I wanted to read a holiday themed mystery so I skipped way ahead. ( I honestly don’t think it really matters what order you read them in- but purists will be purists-😁😁 - and I'm just in this for the fun- so... )

Christie’s trademark twists kept me on my toes in this solid whodunit/locked room mystery!!

I didn’t figure out who the murderer was and loved the clever red herrings Christie used. I also enjoyed her tongue in cheek humor, poking fun at her own tendency to avoid too much graphic violence and her slight sarcasm about ‘locked room’ mysteries, carefully avoiding any insult to the reader’s intelligence.

Although I thought Poirot was maybe a bit subdued in this installment, I can’t think of a better way to wind up my 2019 holiday reading than with a solid Golden Age mystery written by the queen of crime herself!






Agatha Christie was born in 1890 and created the detective Hercule Poirot in her debut novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920). She achieved wide popularity with The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926) and produced a total of eighty novels and short-story collections over six decades.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

The Last Collection by Jeanne Mackin - Feature and Review


An American woman becomes entangled in the intense rivalry between iconic fashion designers Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli in this captivating novel from the acclaimed author of The Beautiful American.

Paris, 1938. Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli are fighting for recognition as the most successful and influential fashion designer in France, and their rivalry is already legendary. They oppose each other at every turn, in both their politics and their designs: Chanel's are classic, elegant, and practical; Schiaparelli's bold, experimental, and surreal.

When Lily Sutter, a recently widowed young American teacher, visits her brother, Charlie, in Paris, he insists on buying her a couture dress--a Chanel. Lily, however, prefers a Schiaparelli. Charlie's beautiful and socially prominent girlfriend soon begins wearing Schiaparelli's designs as well, and much of Paris follows in her footsteps.

Schiaparelli offers budding artist Lily a job at her store, and Lily finds herself increasingly involved with Schiaparelli and Chanel's personal war. Their fierce competition reaches new and dangerous heights as the Nazis and the looming threat of World War II bear down on Paris.



The Last Collection: A Novel of Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco ChanelThe Last Collection: A Novel of Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel by Jeanne Mackin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Last Collection by Jeanne Mackin is a 2019 Berkley publication.

Interesting, highly absorbing look at the lives of two fashion icons

Paris- 1938

Lily Sutter, an art teacher and grieving widow, accepts her brother, Charlie’s invitation to visit him in Paris. Once there, meets Charlie’s girlfriend, Ania, a woman who is trapped in a loveless marriage. Through her, Lilly finds herself involved with both Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli, two highly competitive fashion designers.

The two women couldn’t be more different. The rivalry between them is very intense, even violent on occasion. However, the encroaching war spotlights their political disagreements as both prepare themselves for undeniable change. Lily finds herself caught up in their intrigue, narrating the story from her first- person perspective.

The author did a great job at weaving the political climate into a story centered around headstrong women and the colorful world of fashion. The sadness and fear that permeates Paris is palpable, which gives the story an extra layer of tension and poignancy.

To be honest, I’ve never had much interest in learning about the lives of fashion industry icons. I know book have been written and movies have been made about Coco Chanel, and like many other women I keep a bottle of Chanel 5 on my dresser. Other than that, I knew very little about her, but had heard rumors that she was a Nazi sympathizer- but never pursued the rumor.

Coco Chanel

Schiaparelli? I’m afraid I was only vaguely aware of this designer, and I think I may not be totally alone in that. For me this novel was fascinating, and I quickly found myself absorbed in the tactics the two designers resorted to in order to one up the other one.

Elsa Schiaparelli

While the antics of the Chanel and Schiaparelli is interesting- I can’t say I felt much compassion or empathy for them, although I did find their characters enthralling. I did, however, emotionally invest myself in Charles, Ania, and Lily’s segments of the book, which I thought was the most compelling part of the story.

As to the historical accuracy goes, I feel the author has done her homework, but because this is fiction, many of the inner thoughts provided are most likely speculative. As with any historical fiction novel, I’m also sure that some liberties were taken. However, because I’m so unfamiliar with the topic at hand, I can’t speak to that.

What I do know is that I found this story engrossing and thought provoking and enjoyed the approach the author took, giving Lily a chance to embrace her artistic nature and maybe find a second chance at love in the aftermath of so much tragedy and turmoil.

This was a very nice change of pace from the usual world war two inspired historical fiction that has become so popular this year. Even if you are not interested in fashion, the history, politics, and Paris location will soon draw you into the story and keep you engaged and invested in the drama from beginning to end!






Jeanne Mackin is the author of The Beautiful American and A Lady of Good Family. In addition to several other novels as well as short fiction and creative nonfiction, she is the author of the Cornell Book of Herbs and Edible Flowers and co-editor of The Norton Book of Love. She lives with her husband in upstate New York.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Santa Claus Bank Robbery by Tui Snider- Feature and Review + Giveaway

  Genre: Nonfiction / Texana / Texas History
Publisher: Castle Azle Press
Date of Publication: December 8, 2019
Number of Pages: 146 pages + black & white photos

Scroll down for Giveaway!

When Marshall Ratliff dressed like Santa Claus to pull a Christmas-time heist, he thought it would be easy. Unfortunately for him, when the citizens of Cisco heard Santa was robbing a bank, they came running - with loaded guns in hand! But can you blame them? In 1927, the only way to earn the $5000 Dead Bank Robber Reward was to kill a bandit while the crime was in progress.
This bungled bank robbery led to a wild shootout and a getaway with two little girls as hostages. And that is only the beginning! Tui Snider’s true-crime tale reads like a comedy of errors as the consequences of the Santa Claus Bank Robber’s actions escalate to include a botched car-jacking, one of the biggest manhunts in Texas history, and a jailbreak leading to a deadly conclusion. Meanwhile, it’s up to readers to decide whether or not a mysterious blonde helped these gangsters escape. And if so, did she get away with murder?

Santa Claus Bank Robbery: A True Crime Saga in TexasSanta Claus Bank Robbery: A True Crime Saga in Texas by Tui Snider
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The synopsis/blurb asked this question:

Think you know all about the Santa Claus Bank Robbery in Cisco, Texas?

Well, I live in Texas, and not too far from Cisco, but I’d never heard anything about this bank robbery, nor was I aware of the museums, songs and shows influenced by this insane story.

In the 1920’s, bank robberies were becoming so commonplace, lawmakers offered a five -thousand- dollar reward to anyone who took out a bandit in the process of robbing a bank. That was a huge amount of money back then, and unbelievably that law stayed on the books until 1964!!

But, when a group of four men, now known as the Santa Claus Gang- Marshall Ratliff, Henry Helms, Lewis Davis, and Robert Hill- decided to knock off the First National Bank in Cisco, they weren’t too worried about being shot, apparently. They had a getaway car, plus one of the bandits had a perfect disguise- a Santa Claus suit.

However, that suit, as it turns out, was more of a hindrance than a help. To say the robbery didn’t go as planned is an understatement of epic proportions. It was just unreal! Kids wanting to see Santa, teenagers with guns, and an all -out melee that resulted in several deaths, with several others wounded.

This is not the first book written about this crime, and the author appears puzzled by the various name changes and omissions from previous publications. Snider doesn’t hold back any information or tiptoe around the possible connections with those on the periphery, or those who may have aided and abetted the robbers. Why other writers may have avoided pointing out those connections is a curious mystery all on its own.

The story follows the case from its conception, all the way through to the aftermath, and reveals the effects on the survivors later in life. The aftermath is most interesting, proving truth is often stranger than fiction. The most interesting relationship to develop over time, was between robber Robert Hill and potential victim Woody Harris.

Wow! Unbelievable. Woody is my favorite person in this story, I think.

The book isn’t all that long and once I got started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. I even got my husband interested in it. The history, of course, is quite fascinating, made even more interesting since I am familiar with most of the areas mentioned in the book. Surprisingly, a few famous names pop up here and there- such as Conrad Hilton. You’ll have to read the book to see how he was connected to Cisco, Texas.

Unfortunately, there are moments of shame in the story too, and not where one might think it should be placed. Citizens behaved just as badly at times and that is a part of the story surely no one is very proud of.

While I’ve read many true crime sagas, this year, this one was one of the wildest stories I have encountered- and it might just be my favorite!

Anyone who likes history will have to read this book, and of course, true crime readers won’t want to miss it, either.

5 stars!!

Tui Snider is an award-winning writer, speaker, photographer, and musician specializing in offbeat sites, overlooked history, cemetery symbolism, and haunted lore. As she puts it, “I used to write fiction, but then I moved to Texas!” Tui lectures frequently at universities, libraries, conferences, and bookstores.This fall, she will speak about the Great Airship Mystery of 1897 at this year’s UFO Congress and teach a course on Understanding Cemetery Symbols at Texas Christian University. She also shares weekly info-videos based on her research at her YouTube channel. Snider’s writing and photography have been featured in a variety of media outlets, including WFAA TV, Coast to Coast AM, LifeHack, Langdon Review, the City of Plano, Wild Woman Waking, Shades of Angels and many more. She has several more books in progress.



 GRAND PRIZE (US only) Signed Paperback +$10 Amazon Gift Card + Thank You Post Card
2ND PRIZE (US only)Signed Copy + Thank You Post Card
3RD PRIZE (International): Kindle eBook
  December 12-22, 2019



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