Fabulous Fiction Firsts #824
Named 2012 Sweden’s Book of the Year, and based on real events, (read The New York Times article) Stolen * by Ann-Helen Laestadius (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook), is part coming-of-age story, part love song to a disappearing natural world, and part spotlight on an indigenous culture under siege.
On a winter day north of the Arctic Circle, 9 year-old Elsa skies alone to visit her beloved reindeer calf at the family’s corral, only to find notorious local poacher Robert Isaksson, standing over her brutally savaged calf. Threatened to silence in order to protect her Sami herder family, the police has no choice but to declare it another case of “stolen” animals instead of a crime.
Ten years on, Elsa is now working the family herd and teaching at the village school. In the intervening years, she has lost a beloved uncle to suicide, her brother becomes estranged from the family and yet, the torture and slaughter of the reindeer continues with the apathetic police force. Finally, Elsa decides to push back, with the help of a young journalist.
“The novel highlights the problems and issues the Sámi face - racism, loss of culture, alcoholism, suicide, governmental mistakes and neglect, and the devastating effects of climate change. “ (Library Journal)
“Of Sámi descent herself, award-winning journalist Laestadius offers a rare, multigenerational look at the diverse and deep-rooted cultural heritage of this traditional arctic community. Akin to gritty stories of Old West cattle rustlers evading the law and society, Laestadius' unvarnished saga demonstrates the universality of oppression and revenge and conflicts over land and race.” (Booklist)
Stolen is Laestadius’ (English language) first adult novel and is being adapted into a film for Netflix.
* = Starred review
Fabulous Fiction Firsts #823 - The 1%
Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson (also available as eBook and audiobook) is a deliciously funny, sharply observed “comedy of manners, charting the fates of the Stockton siblings and their spouses…A wealthier cousin of Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney's The Nest. ” (Kirkus Reviews)
The Stocktons, residents of Brooklyn Heights’ renowned fruit streets are the product of generational wealth and capitalist success. Cord, middle-child and the only son, had just moved into the family home recently vacated by his parents, downsizing to a nearby condo. His wife Sasha, a successful graphic designer from a middle class family, secretly referred to by his sisters as "the GD" (gold digger) because of her hesitation in signing a pre-nup, is struggling to fit in with this tight-knit family.
Darley, the eldest daughter who gave up her banking career for motherhood, regrets renouncing her inheritance when she married Malcolm, a first generation Korean American, now that a scandal has derailed Malcolm's career. Party-girl Georgiana, the youngest, considers herself a “do-gooder”, works for a non-profit and is secretly involved with a colleague while no one cares to tell her he is married.
“Jenny Jackson has written a lovely, absorbing, acutely observed novel about class, money and love. These are the themes of Henry James and Jane Austen, but they are observed with a fresh eye and a contemporary voice. Who wouldn’t want to read Pineapple Street?” ~ Nick Hornby
Fabulous Fiction Firsts #822 - Resourceful Women
The Bandit Queens * * by Parini Shroff (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) is “a darkly hilarious take on gossip, caste, truth, village life, and the patriarchy….. A perfect match for fans of Oyinkan Braithwaite's My Sister, the Serial Killer (2018) and clever, subversive storytelling.“ (Booklist)
Ever since her abusive husband Ramesh disappeared five years ago, Geeta has become a social piranha in their small Indian village. She is feared and ostracized - for rumor has it that Geeta killed him. It turns out being a "self-made" widow has its perks…freedom. When a member of her microloan group (that funds her thriving wedding jewelry business) consults her for her “expertise” in husband disposal, it sets in motion a chain of events that will change everything, not just for Geeta, but for all the women in their village.
Inspired by the resourcefulness of Phoolan Devi, the Bandit Queen (the subject of a 1994 featured film), a folk heroine who exacted revenge on her abusers, Geeta reluctantly agrees to help Farah kill her husband. In the process, Geeta connects with widower Karem, a gentle and kind bootlegger, and her estranged childhood friend Saloni, fortuitous because bigger troubles come knocking at her door.
“Shroff deals sharply with misogyny and abuse, describing the misery inflicted as well as its consequences in unflinching detail, and is equally unsparing in her depictions of mean-girl culture in the village. Readers are in for a razor-stuffed treat.” (Publishers Weekly)
Viviana Valentine Gets Her Man, the first in the Girl Friday Mystery by Emily J. Edwards (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook). New York City, 1950. Viviana Valentine is girl Friday to Tommy Fortuna, a private eye working out of Hell’s Kitchen. When fabulously wealthy Tallmadge Blackstone hires Tommy to tail his 18 year-old daughter Tallulah, who is resistant to marry his partner, the much older Webber Harrington-Whitley, it looks like routine business, and it will pay the bills.
At a society event, Viviana meets the delightful Tallulah. Unfortunately, before she could report to Tommy the next day, she finds a lifeless body on the office floor and Tommy missing. The cops, led by Detective Jake Lawson who finds Tommy’s business tactics questionable at best, is quick to issue a warrant for his arrest. It is now up to Viviana to take on the Blackstone case, and to clear Tommy’s name.
“Though the mystery doesn’t seem to be up to much, Edwards sneaks in a raft of twists and complications under your guard, and the big reveal is surprisingly big and revealing. Just what 1950s men’s magazine fiction would be like if it were written by and about women.” (Kirkus Reviews)
The Socialite's Guide to Murder: A Pinnacle Hotel Mystery by S. K. Golden (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) a series debut perfect for fans of Rhys Bowen and Ashley Weaver.
1958. 21 year-old Evelyn Elizabeth Grace Murphy, heiress to The Pinnacle Hotel, one of New York City’s premier hotels, is privileged, pampered and frankly, spoiled. Since finding her mother’s body in an alley when she was six, she suffers from agoraphobia, and rarely if ever, leaves the hotel. From her perch in the penthouse suite and the hotel staff at her disposal, life is grand, until a valuable painting in a splashy affair goes missing, and the artist murdered in the hotel corridor, following a violent confrontation with her best friend, actor Henry Fox. Before Evelyn could prove Henry’s innocence, the head of hotel security is arrested.
Enlisting the help of bellboy/her secret crush, Malcolm "Mac" Cooper, they pick locks, snoop around the hotel, and discover the walls around them contain more secrets than they previously knew. Now, Evelyn must force herself to leave the hotel to follow the clues to find the murderer. “Suggest to readers who enjoyed other hotel-set mysteries with young amateur sleuths, like Nita Prose's The Maid and Audrey Keown's Murder at Hotel 1911.” (Library Journal)
* * = 2 starred reviews
Fabulous Fiction Firsts #821, Spotlight on Indigenous Voices
One of CrimeRead’s Best November Novels, and USA Today’s 15 great reads to honor Native American History Month (according to Goodreads), White Horse * * by Erika T. Wurth (she is of Apache/Chickasaw/Cherokee descent) is part horror novel, part detective story (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook), that's perfect for fans of Stephen Graham Jones and Catriona Ward . (Library Journal)
The title, taken from the name of the Denver bar where our protagonist Kari James often parks herself for cold beers and hot metal. It is where she meets up with her cousin Debby, who presents her with a beaded bracelet that once belonged to Kari’s mother, a woman who disappeared just two days after Kari was born.
Every time she puts on the bracelet, it causes Kari to see the ghost of her mother - screaming, bloody, and crying for help, and she wonders for the first time if her mother's disappearance wasn't all it appeared to be. Growing up, her permanently-disabled father and Auntie Squeaker were mum on the subject, forcing Kari now on a quest to uncover what really happened, and the truth long denied by both her family and law enforcement forces.
“Wurth creates a compelling world that feels so real it's easy to forget you're reading a work of fiction. She allows readers to truly get inside Kari's head, and they will ache for her as she leaves no stone unturned in her investigation. White Horse is a must-read for anyone fond of ghost stories and the horror genre, as Wurth's voice is both authentic and insistent.” (Booklist)
Longlisted for the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize, A Minor Chorus * * * by Canadian poet Billy-Ray Belcourt, a Lambda Literary Award winner, and a member of the Driftpile Cree Nation, which the BookPage reviewer called “a feat of technical brilliance… a slippery, scholarly work, rooted in the layered complexity of Indigenous life."
Our protagonist is a queer Indigenous doctoral student in Northern Alberta who temporarily steps away from his dissertation on critical theory, and returns home to write a novel, informed by his conversations with fellow doctoral student River over the mounting pressure placed on marginalized scholars; with Michael, a closeted man from his hometown whose vulnerability and loneliness punctuate the realities of queer life on the fringe; and memories of cousin Jack, trapped in the awful cycle of police violence, drugs, and despair. In between, he has casual sex, analyzing the differences between rural and urban Grindr profiles and hookups.
“Belcourt's smart, thoughtful writing will appeal to readers who prize introspection over plot, and is also a great crossover for memoir readers.” (Booklist)
“Belcourt weaves in a steady stream of references to work by Judith Butler, Roland Barthes, and Maggie Nelson without losing narrative momentum, and he delivers incendiary reflections on the costs, scars, and power of history and community. This is a breathtaking and hypnotic achievement.” (Publishers Weekly)
Readers might also want to check out the other titles on Oprah Daily’s 31 Native American Authors to Read Right Now.
* * * = 3 starred reviews
* * = 2 starred reviews
Fabulous Fiction Firsts #820
The Cloisters, * a debut by art history professor and museum professional Katy Hays is a gripping tale of “Murder! Occult! Obsession”, (Kirkus Reviews) set at the famed The MET Cloisters. (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook)
Ann Stilwell, a Whitman graduate still mourning the sudden death of her father, is glad to turn her back on Walla Walla where she has lived all her life, and heads to NYC for a summer internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Upon arrival, she learns the offer has been rescinded and she is reassigned to The Cloisters, after a chance meeting with Curator Patrick Roland. Being a skilled linguist, Ann will be working with the medieval art collection, preparing for an upcoming exhibition of the arcane history of divination and the Tarot. Reserve and alone in a new city, Ann is surprised and pleased to be befriended by the beautiful and supremely competent Rachel Mondray, a fellow intern, and Leo, the Cloisters' gardener.
When Ann discovers a hidden 15th-century deck of tarot cards that might hold the key to predicting the future, she keeps it a secret, a secret she shares only with Rachel. Soon academic curiosity quickly turns into obsession. The dangerous game of power, seduction and ambition at The Cloisters among the researchers eventually turns deadly.
“Hays carefully leaves the supernatural elements open to interpretation, and Ann's summer is ultimately shaped by a tragedy with a traceably human cause. Readers will be fascinated by the evocative setting as well as the behind-the-scenes glimpses into museum curatorship and the cutthroat games of academia. It makes for an accomplished debut.” (Publishers Weekly)
* = Starred review
Fabulous Fiction Firsts #819, Small (Texas) Towns, Big Secrets
They might be flying under the media radar, but these two debuts are not to be missed….
In Olympus, Texas * * * by Stacey Swann (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) the Briscoe family is well known in this part of east Texas.
Indiscretions and infidelity run through the generations. Peter, the patriarch, a real estate tycoon with a notorious roving eye, has exhausted his long-suffering wife June’s good will and forgiveness with his many affairs, and his ”other” family, twins Arlo & Arti, fathered with his mistress Lee.
After being caught having an affair with his brother Hap’s wife, Vera, youngest son March has just returned to town after an absence of 2 years. Within days of March's arrival, someone is dead, marriages are upended, and even the strongest of allies are tested.
“Swann's debut is rich in Texas flavor and full of nods to classical mythology—quotes from Ovid, twins human and canine, and the kind of relentless bad luck that usually means you've offended a deity. A total page-turner.” (Kirkus reviews)
“Similar in tenor and tone to Brady Udall's The Lonely Polygamist (2010) and Cristina Alger's The Darlings (2012), Swann's rich and compelling novel will delight anyone anxiously awaiting the next season of HBO's Succession.” (Booklist)
One of Kirkus Review's Most Anticipated Fall Books, The Old Place * * by Texas native/Brooklyn podcaster (Who? Weekly) Bobby Finger (also in downloadable eBook) is set in Billington, Texas. "Reminiscent of Alice Elliott Dark’s novel Fellowship Point (a tale of two New England dowagers), it focuses on best friends and neighbors Mary Alice Roth and Ellie Hall and their deeply intertwined past and present." (BookPage)
For the first time in almost 4 decades, high school math teacher Mary Alice is at loose ends, having been forced into retirement, and decides to rekindle a lapsed relationship with her neighbor Ellie. It used be they were each other’s best friends. Ellie, recently divorced, is a nurse at a nearby hospital when she moved next door with her 12 year-old son Kenny, the same age as widowed Mary Alice’s son Michael. The boys quickly became inseparable, until a tragedy took them both the morning after their high school graduation.
As Mary Alice and Ellie make effort to renew their friendship with morning coffees, their routine is upended with the arrival of Mary Alice’s sister Katherine, with news that would expose the many secrets she has been keeping from the citizens of Billington, especially from Ellie.
“Finger handles the nature of Kenny and Michael’s friendship and the town’s reaction with unexpected nuance, showing the problematic confusion in how people see themselves, see others, and assume they are seen by others. What could have turned melodramatic becomes an exploration of the danger of unnecessary secrets. A surprising page-turner—homey, funny, yet with dark corners of anger and grief.” (Kirkus Reviews)
* * * = 3 starred reviews
* * = 2 starred reviews
Fabulous Fiction Firsts #818, Do You Believe in Magic?
In Thistlefoot, * * * (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) poet/folklorist Genna Rose Nethercott “brings strong gifts to bear on this retelling of Slavic folktales. . . . at once a modern folktale, a road trip-like saga, and a chiller featuring ghosts, golems, and flesh-eating witches.” (Library Journal, “Top Fall Debut Novels”)
In the tradition of modern fairy tales like Neil Gaiman's American Gods and Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver, Thislefoot is the saga of estranged siblings - Bellatine and Isaac, the youngest living direct descendants of Baba Yaga, who found themselves recipients of a bequest. The siblings agreed to meet at the Port Authority of New York though they have not seen each other for six years ever since Isaac took to the road at 17. When they opened the enormous crate, they found Baba Yaga’s famous chicken-legged hut. When actor/shape-shifter Isacc saw how woodworker Bellatine was immediately enamored with Thistlefoot, he made her a deal - if they would tour their family’s puppet show for one year, he would trade his half of Thistlefoot for the proceeds.
Unbeknown to them, a sinister figure known only as the Longshadow Man has been stalking the hut since 1919 and seeks to destroy it--and the Yagas--once and for all.
“Nethercott's quiet, lyrical, yet potent prose likewise breathes life into this stirring, multigenerational fairy tale, which suggests that you will always carry your ancestors' suffering within you, even when you know little of your own family history. In some chapters, the wise, cynical Thistlefoot speaks to the reader directly, recalling its history with Baba Yaga, the witch from Slavic folklore, as well as chilling anecdotes of Jewish persecution in early twentieth-century Russia (now Ukraine). This fable about fables reminds us of the staying power of stories, even as they evolve or contradict themselves over time. “ (Booklist)
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches, * * * by Sangu Mandanna (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook).
From an early age, Mika Moon, an orphan from a long-line of witches in India, is told to keep her magic hidden, for her own safety. Raised in isolation by Primrose, a family friend and head of a secret British coven, as an adult, Mika takes to the internet and posts videos in which she “pretends” to be a witch. Then comes the invitation by Ian Kubo-Hawthorn, a retired actor, inviting her to Nowhere House, and tutor 3 young orphaned witches how to control their magic.
What Mika finds is a warm and loving household, all except for the "devastatingly handsome" Jamie Kelly, the house librarian, who is overly protective of little witches. Together they must learn to trust each other if they are going to survive the upcoming visit from the lawyer of the absent family matriarch that could mean the end of this found-family.
“The world Mandanna has created is exceedingly cozy and heartfelt, full of people bursting with love who have trouble expressing it due to trauma in their pasts. From the three magical girls to the elderly gay caretakers to the hot, young Irish librarian, each resident of Nowhere House is a lovingly crafted outcast reaching for family. Various threads laid out seemingly haphazardly through the story all come together in surprising ways… A magical tale about finding yourself and making a found family that will leave the reader enchanted. “ (Kirkus Reviews)
“This sweet and sometimes steamy fantasy romance will appeal to fans of TJ Klune's The House in the Cerulean Sea (2020) or Karen Hawkins' The Book Charmer (2019).” (Booklist)
Acts of Violet (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) by Margarita Montimore, is “(a) winding tale of two sisters pulled together and pushed apart by fame, magic, and the cult of celebrity.” (Kirkus Reviews)
10 years ago, Violet Volk, a celebrated stage magician on one-night only performance, managed a remarkable stunt onstage: she vanished. As the anniversary of the disappearance approaches, her hold on her fans (called the wolf packs, the meaning of Volkov in Russia) and on the public imaginations is stronger than ever. Cameron Frank, host of a fledgling podcast “Strange Exits” is devoting the season to all things Violet. He fully comprehends that securing an interview with Sasha, Violet’s quiet and publicity-shy sister would very well guarantee a next season with the network.
“Supplementing the straightforward prose with a slew of narrative devices that include tabloid articles, email exchanges, and podcast transcripts, Montimore achieves a thoughtful, panoramic portrait of larger-than-life Violet while underscoring Sasha's pain as she tries to grieve under an unforgiving public eye. This spellbinding effort delivers its fair share of magic.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Montimore's (Oona Out of Order, 2020) second novel illuminates the darker side of fame as it highlights the burdens borne by family members and casts a wry eye on the true-crime phenomenon. Fans of Nicole Baart and Kelly Harms will enjoy Sasha's and Violet's sisterly contrasts: the shared frustrations between a pragmatic people-pleaser and an audacious extrovert. Like an enthralling magic trick itself, Acts of Violet asks readers to suspend their disbelief and rewards them for the effort.” (Booklist)
* * * = 3 starred reviews
Fabulous Fiction Firsts #817, Taking Paris by Storm
Mademoiselle Revolution * by Zoe Sivak (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook). 18 year-old Sylvie de Rosiers, the daughter of a white coffee plantation owner and an enslaved woman, enjoys the comforts of a lady in the 1791 French colony of Saint-Domingue society, though never quite fully accepted by the island elites. When forced to flee the island for Paris with her beloved half-brother Gaspard during the slave revolt that leads into the Haitian Revolution, they find shelter with their Aunt Euphemie,
There the siblings befriend young Elisabeth and Eleonore Duplay, and Sylvie especially, is drawn to their tenant Maximilien Robespierre and his mistress, Cornélie Duplay, and unwittingly, into another revolution. When the Reign of Terror descends, Sylvie must decide whether to become an accomplice while a new empire rises on the bones of innocents…or risk losing her head.
"As the Rosiers draw near the fringes of power, they must navigate the shifting sands of racism, unexpected romance, tyranny, and the people's trust in authority…. Sylvie is sympathetic, mercurial, and flawed, impulsively bolting from conflicts and into danger. Sivak's debut novel is replete with rich details of eighteenth-century life, her characters freely mingling with historical figures and events. Readers will appreciate the tour through French history. “ (Boolist)
“A richly imagined work of historical women’s fiction incorporating themes of diversity and equality very relevant today, this thrilling debut will give book clubs much to discuss.” (Library Journal)
A Caribbean Heiress in Paris * * by Adriana Herrera (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) is the first in the projected Las Léonas Series.
Luz Alana Heith-Benzan inherited her family’s centuries-old rum business in Santo Domingo but her fortune remains in the hands of her absent guardian until she marries. So with three hundred casks of her best rum, her younger sister and her two best friends, she sets sail for Paris and the 1889 Exposition Universelle, in the hopes of expanding the business into European markets. However, she finds buyers and shippers alike refuse to do business with a woman, never mind a woman of color.
Enters James Evanston Sinclair, Earl of Darnick, who turns his back on his father’s dirty money and dirtier politics, and builds himself a whisky empire. Realizing they both have something to gain from a marriage of convenience--Luz would be able to access her inheritance, Evan could gain control of his late mother's distillery, the deal is done.
“While their relationship is meant to be just a business transaction, they would both like to act upon their physical attraction. Soon, emotions and passion blur the line between business and pleasure. Herrera kicks off an enticing historical romance series with this lush, diverse feminist tale. Racism and sexism are tackled head-on in ways that feel both appropriate to the time and relatable to today. Paris and Scotland are vibrant settings, and the large cast is filled with interesting, nuanced characters, from friends to foes. With fascinating historical detail, suspenseful drama, and scorching hot intimate moments, this story hits all the notes of a superb romance, while the setting and characters make it fresh and exciting.” (Kirkus Reviews)
"Adriana Herrera’s novel is as layered, spiced, and intoxicating as Luz’s rum, but its most effective aspect is the sobering ways it layers indictments of colonialism and slavery amid luscious romance and revenge. Adriana Herrera's stories of brilliant and mission-driven Afro-Latinx heroines are not to be missed." (Entertainment Weekly)
* * = 2 starred reviews
* = Starred review
Fabulous Fiction Firsts #816, Unlikely Assassins
Deanna Raybourn, author of the Edgar Award–nominated Veronica Speedwell Mysteries, as well as the Lady Julia Grey series, presents a contemporary stand-alone in Killers of a Certain Age * * * (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook.)
After 40 years of dedicated service to The Museum, a clandestine international organization, Billie, Mary Alice, Helen, and Natalie are retiring, being sent off with an all-expenses paid luxury cruise. They are not the deadliest assassins for nothing - Billie at once notices a fellow colleague passing himself off as a crew member. A search of his cabin unearths a sophisticated bomb, large enough to send the whole ship off to oblivion. Realizing only the Museum Board could order the termination of field agents, these 60somthing know that they will have to turn the table, rely on their training, experience, and each other to survive.
“The story jumps back and forth between the late 1970s and early '80s, when the women were first recruited, to the present day… The writing is witty and original, and the plot is unpredictable…As the women race around the world trying to stay alive, Raybourn vividly evokes a number of far-flung locations while keeping readers on their toes trying to figure out what's going to happen next….A unique examination of womanhood as well as a compelling, complex mystery. “ (Kirkus Reviews)
The Old Woman with the Knife (downloadable eBook and audiobook) is the first book to be translated into English for South Korean author Gu Byeong-mo.
65 year-old Hornclaw knows retirement is imminent. After 4 decades of eliminating double-crossers, corporate enemies, and cheating spouses with ruthless efficiency as a “disease control specialist”, she has to admit she is no longer as fast or as strong - liabilities for an assassin. But before she could settle into retirement, living modestly in the same small apartment, with her aging rescue dog, Deadweight, she had one last assignment. Due to an uncharacteristic slip-up, she is injured and makes an unexpected connection with a doctor and his family at an all-night clinic. But emotions, for an assassin, are a dangerous proposition.
“In (Chi-Young) Kim’s fluid translation, the novel resembles recent South Korean narratives that became popular in the United States, like Bong Joon Ho’s 2019 film Parasite and Hwang Dong-hyuk’s 2021 television series Squid Game, like these works, “The Old Woman With the Knife” uses occasionally cartoonish action and horror sequences to offer a broader social commentary.” (The New York Times Book Reviews)
* * * = 3 starred reviews
Fabulous Fiction Firsts #815, Jazz-Age Mysteries
Last Call at The Nightingale * * by Katharine Schellman (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) launches her new series (after her Lily Adler Series), set in Prohibition-era Manhattan.
Siblings Florence and Vivian Kelly spend their days toiling as seamstresses in a dress shop run by a mean owner. While Florence is sensible and practical, preferring to spend her evenings in their squalid tenement room, Vivian escapes to The Nightingale, an underground nightclub where the jazz band plays, illegal liquor flows, and the low light and dance floor welcomes all - from Asian bartender Danny Chin, waitress and singer Bea Henry, Nightingale owner Honor "Hux" Huxley and to uppercrust Manhattan society.
One night, on a cigarette break, Vivian discovers a body in an alley behind the club, and she is arrested during a subsequent police raid. An unlikely bail comes with strings - she is to spy on the dead man's family and help find the killer.
“Schellman lavishes many chapters on her colorful Roaring ’20s setting before moving the murder probe to the front burner, an understandable gambit in a series kickoff. Colorful period detail, providing insights into the social and political tenor of the times, might allay the impatience of traditional whodunit fans. Once the action gets started, Vivian nails the clever killer and finds a lover and potential sleuthing sidekick. A colorful period crime yarn with a heroine worth rooting for.” (Kirkus Reviews)
Miss Aldridge Regrets, London-based Louise Hare’s US debut, (also in eBook and downloadable audiobook) is set largely aboard the glittering RMS Queen Mary, sailing from Southampton to New York.
London, 1936. Lena Aldridge, a mixed-race girl passing for white is barely able to pay her rent singing in a sticky-floored basement club in Soho since her pianist father died a year ago. The dazzling theater career she hopes for might finally be hers when an American shows up offering a starring role on a Broadway show and a first-class ticket on the Queen Mary bound for New York. The timing is perfect considering the sleazy owner of the club (and married to her best friend Maggie) is murdered right in front of her.
Seated at a table in Cabin (First) Class with the wealthy and dysfunctional Abernathys, she is drawn into their bizarre family dynamics when the patriarch is murdered in a chilling familiar way. More murders follow and soon, Lena finds herself fighting for her life.
“The novel's ambiance is spot-on; somewhat like Carola Dunn's Daisy Dalrymple set 10 years later or Marie Benedict's The Personal Librarian. As Lena narrates, switching from the present to the past, readers gain helpful glimpses of her backstory. With vividly drawn characters, this exciting blend of murder mystery and historical romance is hard to put down once one starts reading.” (Library Journal)
For fans of Nekesa Afia’s debut Dead Dead Girls (and its sequel Harlem Sunset) and these Jazz Age Mysteries That'll Make You Swing.
* * = 2 starred reviews