The Body in the Wardrobe by Katherine Hall Page
In her twenty-third Faith Fairchild cozy mystery, Page focuses on attorney and new bride Sophie Maxwell, first seen in The Body in the Birches. Sophie and her husband Will have moved to Savannah near Will’s family. Sophie fits in professionally, taking a job at her father-in-law’s firm, but has a little more trouble with Southern sensibilities and Will’s step-family. While Will is away in Atlanta investigating a case, Sophie goes house hunting and spends time getting her Yankee roots used to the warm Southern soil, though she can’t help but feel she’s always looking over her shoulder. One night, Sophie finds a body in the wardrobe in her bedroom, but by the time the police arrive, the body is gone. Sophie can’t decide if she’s overtired or if someone is trying to frighten her back to New England. Turning to Faith for help and guidance, Sophie firms up and decides to make the best of it. On the other end of the phone in Massachusetts, Faith is having troubles of her own. Her almost teenage daughter Amy has just unwillingly switched schools and is the target bullies; her son Ben is almost too grown up to be mothered much longer (or so he thinks) and her husband, the Reverend Tom Fairchild has just uttered those most unsettling words “we need to talk”. Easily working the plot back and forth, both stories are fully fleshed out with well-developed characters that are utterly likable and a plot with more twists than first imagined; low-country recipes and recipes from Faith’s catering business round out this most perfect old-fashioned cozy.
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
You don’t need to be a Jane Austen aficionado to appreciate Sittenfeld’s homage to Pride and Prejudice featuring the five Bennet women: Liz, the magazine writer and Jane, the yoga teacher who both live in Manhattan and Lydia and Kitty, health fanatics and Mary, a perpetual student who all live in Cincinnati with their father and shopaholic mother in their rundown family home. After their father suffers a heart attack, Liz and Jane return home to help restore him to health. Enter handsome Chip Bingley, reality-TV contestant on Eligible, a program where women vied to marry Bingley, and odious neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy. Mrs. Bennet thinks Chip is perfect for Jane and is certain the women’s step-cousin Silicon Valley geek Willie Collins is perfect for Liz who is repulsed by the mere thought. On the other hand, Liz and Darcy hate each other at first sight, however have an instant attraction that leads them to engage in “hate sex”. As Liz comes to realize the tudor house that the Bennets have called home is about to come tumbling down around them and that Mr. Bennet’s medical insurance is none existent and his bills overwhelming. As Liz attempts to save the family from themselves, secrets and surprises about each sister are revealed. Even as the slightly overdone, unbelievable finale unfolds, Sittenfeld’s delightful retelling of the famous story line will entertain and endear these modern day Bennets to modern day readers.
Most Wanted by Lisa Scottoline
Christine wants nothing more than to have a baby to complete hers and Marcus’s family, but Marcus’s sperm count is non-existent, which is somewhat of a blow to his ego, but he agrees to use an anonymous donor which he and Christine carefully select: #3319. Christine becomes pregnant on the first try and makes plans to leave her teaching job in June to raise the perfect family. Her reverie is shattered when the man she sees on television under arrest as a serial killer bears an uncanny resemblance to her donor. At first, Marcus is unconvinced, but soon he too is caught up with Christine’s fear, but with a much different view and proposal of how to deal with the possibility of their baby’s father being a serial killer. When no one will confirm the identity of donor #3319, Marcus travels to North Carolina to take care of a project his company is working on and Christine, unknown to Marcus takes a trip to Philadelphia to meet the man she believes to be #3319 to either put her mind at ease or confirm her worst fears, Christine is surprised by what she finds in Philadelphia and finds herself on the trail of a killer, putting everything for which she has worked so hard to achieve in great jeopardy. Christine will stop at nothing to learn the truth in this perfect blend of the story of a complex marriage in crisis, a woman fiercely fighting for her unborn child and a thriller that grips you, taking you on an emotional, unexpected ride until a game-changing final twist.
Murder at the 42nd Street Library by Con Lehane
Just as Dr. James Donnelly is buzzed into Special Collections Librarian Harry Larkin’s office on the second floor of the famous beaux-arts library on Fifth Avenue, he is shot by an unknown, unseen, assassin who seems to disappear into thin air. Ray Ambler, who curates the library’s crime fiction collection has more than a passing interest in the murder as Donnelly was studying the papers of the somewhat reclusive, private, and often drunk, author Nelson Yates: Donnelly and rival scholar Max Wagner were purported to both be writing completing biographies, Donnelly’s the more scholarly, Wagner’s promising to be the more sensational. Ambler has helped (butted in) with NYPD homicide Mike Cosgrove’s investigations before and helps Cosgrove to assemble all the players, many of whose relationships stretch back over twenty-years to Hudson Highlands University, but the key seems to be Yates’ daughter Emily who has been estranged from her father for decades. When Yates is murdered in Bryant Park behind the library, Ambler is baffled, but is certain the answers lie within the contested collection of papers that the library acquired through an anonymous donation. This smart, academic mystery takes full advantage of the rich scholarship and history, the almost mythical image one of the most famous and recognizable libraries offers. Ambler is a complex, multi-faceted character with past demons of his own that, if he works through them, may offer a hopeful future for more than just himself. The mystery is complex and does rely on a couple of coincidences to be completely tied up, but good, solid detective and reference work, sort out fact from fiction and the liars from those telling truths, no matter how unlikely. Good fun for bibliophiles, library lovers and those who love this landmark of Manhattan along with a good old-fashioned murder investigation.
Lilac Girls by Martha Kelly
Europe and the coming of World War II seem very far away to New York socialite and volunteer at the French consulate Caroline Ferriday whose days are spent assisting French immigrants and sending care packages to orphaned French children. When Hitler’s armies invade Poland in the fall of 1939, Caroline knows that changes are coming, but she doesn’t realize who deeply and personally they will affect her. In Poland, a teenage girl, Kasia Kuzmerick, the daughter and sister of nurses, finds herself drawn further and further into the underground resistance until she makes a move that puts her and her family in the wrong place at the wrong time, a set of circumstances that ends with them being sent to Ravensbruck, the female-only concentration camp, noted for the experiments performed there on the Rabbits as some of the interred were called. In Germany, Herta Oberhauser has just begun her career as a doctor and accepts a government position, finding herself at Ravensbruck conducting unthinkable experiments at the behest of the male-centric regime. As war rages on, each woman finds herself doing things she never imagined, often out of love, desperation and the will to survive. Once the war is over, lives begin to be rebuilt and these women’s lives will intersect as justice, forgiveness, anger, compassion and reality all collide with no easy answers or pat endings.
Based on the lives of real women, these characters are brought forth with such life, their horrors and heartbreaks, visceral, these small victories triumphant. This novel is as transformative as it is transfixing, as stories and secrets, hidden for decades, are retold and relived, often with a chilling, yet often hopeful realism.
Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen
Mimi Miller is a Miller from Miller’s Valley and has a certain sense of ownership and responsibility to the land and its people even if she doesn’t recognize it as a young girl. Growing up in the 1960’s, Mimi observes the care her mother takes as a nurse, of her family and as a keeper of the valley, though not of her own sister. Mimi watches and learns as the residents of the valley fight off the government who wants to flood their valley to create a reservoir, as her eldest brother goes to college, marries, has children but never seems quite happy, as her other brother, who has never quite found his place in his world, joins the Marines and returns from Vietnam someone she doesn’t know. As Mimi grows into young adulthood she begins to unwittingly take on responsibilities for her family, the valley and secrets as she lives a life she didn’t plan and then struggles to gain control of her own destiny, allowing others to make their own mistakes and learning what can be changed and what needs to be accepted. This quiet meditation reminds us that sometimes we need to lose what we love in order to move forward with our lives and ourselves. Mimi is an extraordinary character, depicted with care, as what we learn about her friends, family and surrounds are reflected in her and as she is in them.
Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss
As a new decade dawns in Manhattan, there are life changes in store for three strangers who will be brought together and have lasting and irrevocable effects on each other: Raul has left his sister in Argentina to pursue freedom and his desire to be a painter; James has always been considered odd, but he learns to use his gift as a synesthetic to become an art critic for The New York Times and a renowned, if not financially viable, art collector; Lucy is a beautiful young woman who has come from a small town in Idaho looking for something, though what she does not know. Raul and James become ascending stars in the downtown art scene just as separate tragedies touch each man, and eventually Lucy. As the two men’s paths cross and become intertwined it is an orphaned boy sent from Argentina that help the men face what each has lost and learn to reassemble and reframe their lives, talents and loves. This stunning debut novel will make downtown in 1980 feel familiar even to those who have never set foot in Manhattan. Without hyperbole, the grittiness of the East Village and Soho before the gentrification and million dollar rents is described in careful detail. As each character’s story is revealed, each voice is unique and distinct yet they meld together easily as their stories weave in and out of each other’s lives creating an honest portrait of love, community and art.