Winter is Coming Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Winter is Coming Giveaway Hop, hosted by  The Mommy Island & The Kids Did It!

Officially, winter won’t be here in the Northern hemisphere until the day after this hop closes. The official start of winter this year is December 21, the day of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. But depending on where you live, it might feel like winter is already here. It might even feel like winter has been here for quite some time by this point.

Winter usually deals Atlanta a glancing blow, which is fine by me. Today feels a bit like a Seattle winter in that it is gloomy, chilly, wet, rainy and has been for several days. But climate’s what you expect, weather is what you get, and wet and chilly in the mid-40s is a considerable improvement over snow showers in the low-30s as it is in Anchorage right now. Especially considering that that represents a warm-ish front so it can snow.

I don’t miss that at all.

What about you? What represents a perfect winter day – or even just a typical one? Answer below for your chance at Reading Reality’s regular blog hop prize, the winner’s choice of a $10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 in books.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more frosty winter prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

Review: The Socialite’s Guide to Murder by S.K. Golden + Giveaway

Review: The Socialite’s Guide to Murder by S.K. Golden + GiveawayThe Socialite's Guide to Murder by S.K. Golden
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebbok, audiobook
Genres: cozy mystery, historical mystery, mystery
Series: Pinnacle Hotel Mystery #1
Pages: 320
Published by Crooked Lane Books on October 11, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook DepositoryBookshop.org
Goodreads

The hotel was her refuge, but scandal is afoot—and a killer stalks the halls in this charming series debut perfect for fans of Rhys Bowen and Ashley Weaver.
It’s 1958 and Evelyn Elizabeth Grace Murphy has not left the Pinnacle Hotel in fourteen months. She suffers from agoraphobia, and what’s more, it’s her father’s hotel, and everything she needs is there. Evelyn’s always been good at finding things, she discovered her mother dead in a Manhattan alleyway fifteen years earlier. Now she’s finding trouble inside her sanctuary. At a party for artist Billie Bell, his newest work is stolen, and Evelyn’s fake boyfriend (and real best friend), movie star Henry Fox, is accused of the theft. But just as Evelyn sets out to prove Henry’s innocence, she finds Billie Bell dead.
The murder weapon links the crime to the hotel’s chief of security. But why would he use a knife with his initials on the handle? With her beloved home in disarray, Evelyn joins up with hotel employee (and her secret crush) Mac Cooper to get to the bottom of the case.
As Mac picks locks and Evelyn snoops around the hotel, they 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—but when she and Mac set off to chase a lead, their car crashes and they barely escape with their lives. Someone snipped Evelyn’s brake lines, and now the stakes have become dangerously high.
Evelyn’s knack for sleuthing—and her playful imagination—are always hard at work, and she throws an elaborate party at the hotel where every guest is a suspect. But will the killer emerge from the glamorous lineup? If not, Evelyn just might find herself…next in line for murder.

My Review:

The socialite of the title, is Evelyn Elizabeth Grace Murphy, the daughter of the owner of the Pinnacle Hotel in Manhattan. Her penchant for finding missing items, such as a diplomat’s daughter or a supposedly stolen necklace lead to the search for a murderer when that murder occurs in her home and sanctuary – her father’s hotel where she lives in a top-floor suite designed and decorated just for her.

And her little purse dog Presley. Mustn’t ever forget Presley.

As a socialite, Evelyn lives to be seen, especially with her society page boyfriend, actor Henry Fox. Which is a bit of a problem, because Evelyn hasn’t left the Pinnacle in months. She can, but she can’t. When she was a little girl, she found her mother’s dead body just outside the hotel. The trauma has been drawing her in ever since, to the point where agoraphobia keeps her from leaving her sanctuary – the Pinnacle.

But Evelyn’s whole world teeters on a tightrope. Her romance with Henry Fox is a ruse, concocted of her need to be featured in the society columns and his need to keep the world from discovering that he’s gay. They’re the best of friends.

Howsomever, Evelyn is also friends with Mac Cooper, one of the bellhops at her father’s hotel. Mac walks the dog, keeps Evelyn up with all the hotel gossip, and is entirely too good at more than a little bit of kiss and canoodle.

So when a high-profile artist is murdered in the hotel, Mac is the perfect person to help her stage distractions, pick the locks of rooms the police have closed off, and generally assist her with her own investigation into the crime. Because Henry Fox is the prime suspect, at least until the ham-fisted police latch onto someone even better – the hotel’s head of security.

But Evelyn isn’t going to let things rest. The sanctity of her sanctuary must be restored, and she’s just the woman to do it. All she has to do is juggle Mac, Henry and whatever other secret Henry is keeping long enough to figure out whodunnit.

Escape Rating B: The Socialite’s Guide to Murder isn’t quite a cozy, but it is a light and bubbly mystery that has much of the same appeal. The Pinnacle, while not a small town, does a surprisingly good job of functioning as one for the purpose of the story.

Evelyn as a heroine embodies both the “poor little rich girl” and “bird in a gilded cage” tropes. What’s a bit different is that her cage is completely self-imposed. There’s a lot of trauma hiding behind her ditzy, spoiled persona. She’s aware that the ditziness is an act, although she’s a bit oblivious about just how spoiled she is.

Which is reflected in her relationship with Mac. They may be, probably are, falling in love with each other. And it is more than a bit frothy and bubbly, but there’s an undertone to it that gave me more than a bit of pause while reading. There’s a rather vast power imbalance between them as she’s paying him $10 or $20 every single time he does something for her. $10 doesn’t sound like that much, but it’s the equivalent of $100 in today’s terms. It adds up to a lot of money. She’s initially not at all sure whether he’s her friend because he likes her or because she’s paying him and it doesn’t feel like she worries about it nearly enough.

(If that shoe were on the other foot it would be an extremely squicky situation. It’s not less squicky because of the role reversal even if it’s intended to feel that way.)

Once I was able to let my willing suspension of disbelief set all of that aside, the mystery itself is a lot of fun. I did guess that the initial art heist that kicks things off wasn’t exactly what it seemed, but the murder that followed had plenty of tasty red herrings to fish for and tempting would-be clues to sent this reader on many an enjoyable wild goose chase.

The setting of the mystery within the confines of this great and grand hotel was a treat. It still felt like a cozy in a setting that isn’t really cozy at all. More like elegant and opulent, and it was a pleasure to read the way it all worked and how Evelyn’s world came together.

So the mystery is appropriately puzzling, the setting is different in a delicious way and the heroine and her little dog are fun to follow. If you like your mysteries with more than a bit of bubble and froth The Socialite’s Guide to Murder is a lovely little read.

And for anyone who enjoyed The Three Dahlias, Evelyn Elizabeth Grace Murphy the amateur sleuth would fit right into their crime solving shenanigans – once she is able to leave the Pinnacle. Maybe in the next book in the series.

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Great Escapes
This post is part of a Great Escapes Book Tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 12-4-22

It’s a kind of misty, moisty weekend here in the ATL. Here’s a picture of part of the clowder watching the world drip by.

That’s Lucifer on the left and George and Luna on the right. This particular configuration gets along well. George and Luna are buddies and nobody messes with Lucifer. He’s the smallest of the five cats, but he has a tremendous amount of presence. And he was here first so the rest of them defer to his demonic majesty.

Between  The Twist of a Knife and A World of Curiosities this week, I ended up with some mystery television to watch. Magpie Murders was terrific. I won’t say it was better than the book, but it certainly made terrific use of its new medium. Three Pines, on the other hand, was not bad, and certainly better than an earlier attempt, but I have some reservations. They did a good job casting Gamache, but so much of what makes him so fascinating in the books is going on beneath the surface, which is not something that TV does well at all. But I’m curious enough to see how the series turns out.

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Fall 2022 Seasons of Books Giveaway Hop
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Holly Jolly Giveaway Hop

Winner Announcements:

The winner of the Thankful for Books Giveaway Hop is Lyzabeth
The winner of the In All Things Give Thanks Giveaway Hop is Rebecca
The winner of the Super Stocking Stuffer Giveaway Hop is Marisela

Blog Recap:

B Review: The Three Dahlias by Katy Watson
A+ Review: The Twist of a Knife by Anthony Horowitz
B Review: A Wish for Winter by Viola Shipman
Holly Jolly Giveaway Hop
A+ Review: A World of Curiosities by Louise Penny
Stacking the Shelves (525)

Coming This Week:

The Socialite’s Guide to Murder by S.K. Golden (blog tour review)
Winter is Coming Giveaway Hop
Hide by Tracy Clark (blog tour review)
Pets of Park Avenue by Stefanie London (blog tour review)
Holiday Ho-Ho-Ho Giveaway Hop

Stacking the Shelves (525)

I did say I was going to pick up the rest of the Merry Folger series, didn’t I? I really liked Death on a Winter Stroll because I really liked Merry as a character so I expect her series to be a great comfort read.

But speaking of comfort reads, well, sorta/kinda, I bought A World of Curiosities by Louise Penny earlier this week because I adore the Gamache series, even if – or especially because – it uses its very comforting characters to tell some quite disturbing stories – as was the case this time.

The book I’m most looking forward to in this stack – since I’ve already read and reviewed the Gamache – is City Under One Roof by Iris Yamashita. It seems to be based, at least a bit, on Whittier Alaska, which really is a city where all the inhabitants live under one roof. What a great place to set a mystery!

For Review:
Chasing Cleopatra (Cleopatra Chronicles #1) by Tina Sloan
Chasing Othello (Cleopatra Chronicles #2) by Tina Sloan
Children of Memory (Children of Time #3) by Adrian Tchaikovsky
City Under One Roof by Iris Yamashita
Immortal Longings (Flesh & False Gods #1) by Chloe Gong
One Extra Corpse (Silver Screen Historical Mystery #2) by Barbara Hambly

Purchased from Amazon/Audible:
Death in the Off-Season (Merry Folger Nantucket Mystery #1) by Francine Mathews
Death in Rough Water (Merry Folger Nantucket Mystery #2) by Francine Mathews
Death in a Mood Indigo (Merry Folger Nantucket Mystery #3) by Francine Mathews
Death in a Cold Hard Light (Merry Folger Nantucket Mystery #4) by Francine Mathews
Death on Nantucket (Merry Folger Nantucket Mystery #5) by Francine Mathews
Death on Tuckernuck (Merry Folger Nantucket Mystery #6) by Francine Mathews
The Sign for Home by Blair Fell (audio)
A World of Curiosities (Chief Inspector Gamache #18) by Louise Penny (A+ REVIEW)


If you want to find out more about Stacking The Shelves, please visit the official launch page

Please link your STS post in the linky below:

Review: A World of Curiosities by Louise Penny

Review: A World of Curiosities by Louise PennyA World of Curiosities (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #18) by Louise Penny
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, suspense, thriller
Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #18
Pages: 400
Published by Minotaur Books on November 29, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook DepositoryBookshop.org
Goodreads

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache returns in the eighteenth book in #1 New York Times bestseller Louise Penny's beloved series.
It’s spring and Three Pines is reemerging after the harsh winter. But not everything buried should come alive again. Not everything lying dormant should reemerge.
But something has.
As the villagers prepare for a special celebration, Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir find themselves increasingly worried. A young man and woman have reappeared in the Sûreté du Québec investigators’ lives after many years. The two were young children when their troubled mother was murdered, leaving them damaged, shattered. Now they’ve arrived in the village of Three Pines.
But to what end?
Gamache and Beauvoir’s memories of that tragic case, the one that first brought them together, come rushing back. Did their mother’s murder hurt them beyond repair? Have those terrible wounds, buried for decades, festered and are now about to erupt?
As Chief Inspector Gamache works to uncover answers, his alarm grows when a letter written by a long dead stone mason is discovered. In it the man describes his terror when bricking up an attic room somewhere in the village. Every word of the 160-year-old letter is filled with dread. When the room is found, the villagers decide to open it up.
As the bricks are removed, Gamache, Beauvoir and the villagers discover a world of curiosities. But the head of homicide soon realizes there’s more in that room than meets the eye. There are puzzles within puzzles, and hidden messages warning of mayhem and revenge.
In unsealing that room, an old enemy is released into their world. Into their lives. And into the very heart of Armand Gamache’s home.

My Review:

Armand Gamache’s chickens come home to roost – and lay rotten eggs all over Gamache’s past cases, his present peace, and even Three Pines itself in this 18th book in the series.

A World of Curiosities is a story about reckonings, about settling up accounts and finding out that one has been found wanting. Even Armand Gamache. And that all of his mistakes, omissions and oversights have followed him home and put his family and friends in danger.

The roots of this story go deep, back to events that have been previously touched on but not described in detail, back to Armand’s own early cases as well as to the horrific case where he found Jean-Guy Beauvoir languishing in the basement of an outlying Sûreté office. Because Jean-Guy, being himself, was considered insubordinate. Because he wouldn’t play along.

A case that initially seems to be at the heart of it all. And is. But isn’t. But is after all. Again, one of Gamache’s oversight chickens that has come home to roost and shit all over Three Pines.

At first it all seems like an interesting bit of curiosity. A hidden room is found over the bookstore. It’s been bricked over – actually stoned over – for well over a century, lost to time and hidden from sight until a very old but newly discovered letter makes its way from an archive, to a dead woman, to the descendant of the man who bricked that room over all those years ago.

It’s not a straightforward path, rather a convoluted set of fits and starts that seems to have been in motion for years of its own. As was the intent of its patient and painstaking creator. A man who has been plotting his revenge against Armand Gamache for decades, and now has the perfect pawns in place to make Gamache pay.

Or so he believes.

Escape Rating A+: I know I’m not conveying this one well at all. Obviously, I loved it. I was also a bit disturbed by it, because all of the past crimes that lead up to this present danger were very disturbing.

The story opens at a combined commemoration and graduation ceremony at the École Polytechnique massacre in Montreal. The massacre was a real event, a 1989 mass killing of female engineering students by a man who was outraged by women moving into what were formerly male-only preserves.

In addition to bringing this horrific crime back into the light, it also serves as a way of introducing two of the important characters of this entry in the series, two young women, Harriet Landers and Fiona Arsenault, who both graduate as engineers during the ceremony.

It’s Fiona who links back to the earlier case, and it’s that earlier case that is so very disturbing. Because it began as a missing persons case, which turned into a murder case, which led to the discovery that Fiona and Sam Arsenault, ages 13 and 10 respectively, were being pimped out by their now-dead mother. And the damage that was done to them, that echoed through their lives and their personalities from those foundational experiences to the present day.

One of the questions that echoes down through this entire book is the question about not whether they were permanently damaged by their early experiences but just how much they were damaged and whether they can ever be something that might be considered saved or rehabilitated. That Gamache believes that Sam is the true sociopath while Jean-Guy believes it is Fiona doesn’t alter the question about whether either of them can contain their true natures well enough not to spend their lives harming themselves, each other and everyone around them.

Part of what makes the story such a riveting tangle, however, is the way that the focus is solidly on the Arsenaults and the questions about will they, won’t they, did they, don’t they that the true evil hiding in plain sight isn’t even glimpsed until very late in the game.

A World of Curiosities, like so many of the books in this marvelous series, was just about a one-sitting read for me. I started it at dinner and finished just before bed. Which was after midnight and the only reason it was before bed was that something about the story shook me up enough that I didn’t want to take it to bed with me. It was also one of the rare cases with this series where I did thumb to the end about midway through, not because I needed to find out whodunnit – I was happy to follow that trail with Gamache – but because I needed the reassurance that all my friends, the characters who have come to inhabit the series and the village of Three Pines, were going to come out of this alive if not unscathed.

I also realized that the characters are what I love this story for, rather than the process of the investigation and the sheer brilliance of the detectives. Not that Gamache and his colleagues are not generally brilliant, but that’s not the point for me. Every book in this series is such a deep character study, of Gamache, his family and friends, the villagers, and of course the perpetrators and even the red herring characters. Not that forensics and all the trappings of modern policing don’t play a part in the ultimate solution, but Gamache solves crimes by knowing and understanding the people involved and that’s what makes the series so compelling.

While the mystery in A World of Curiosities is a page-turning twisting, turning, swirling – and occasionally stomach-churning whodunnit, the real charm of the series is in its characters, and the best way to get every single drop of that charm is to start at the very beginning with Still Life.

Now I have a year at least to wait for the hoped-for 19th book in the series. In the meantime, there’s a brand new TV series titled Three Pines, based on the novels, that begins tonight on Amazon Prime. I know what I’ll be watching this weekend!

 

Holly Jolly Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Holly Jolly Giveaway Hop, hosted by Mama the Fox!

This hop always gives me an earworm. Maybe it does you as well. Whenever I see the words “Holly Jolly” I hear the perennial holiday song, A Holly Jolly Christmas. The version I remember best is the one in the included YouTube video. But this is only the original. It’s such a ‘holly jolly’ song that it’s been covered over and over (and over) and is one of the most-performed holiday songs even into the 21st century.

What’s your favorite holiday song? Answer in the rafflecopter – even if your personal fave is “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” – for a chance at Reading Reality’s usual prize, the winner’s choice of a $10 Amazon Gift Card (possibly to get more holiday music!) or up to $10 in books.

Happy Holidays!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more jolly prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.

Review: A Wish for Winter by Viola Shipman

Review: A Wish for Winter by Viola ShipmanA Wish for Winter by Viola Shipman
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: Chick Lit, holiday fiction, holiday romance, relationship fiction, women's fiction
Pages: 416
Published by Graydon House on November 15, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook DepositoryBookshop.org
Goodreads

“I love this book—funny, perfect and wonderfully good. A not-to-be-missed delight.” —New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery
With echoes of classic Hollywood love stories like Serendipity and An Affair to Remember, Viola Shipmans latest winter charmer following the USA TODAY bestseller The Secret of Snow is sure to tug on heartstrings and delight readers who love books about books, missed connections and the magic of Christmas.
Despite losing her parents in a tragic accident just before her fourteenth Christmas, Susan Norcross has had it better than most, with loving grandparents to raise her and a gang of quirky, devoted friends to support her. Now a successful bookstore owner in a tight-knit Michigan lakeside community, Susan is facing down forty—the same age as her mother when she died—and she can’t help but see everything she hasn’t achieved, including finding a love match of her own. To add to the pressure, everyone in her small town believes it’s Susan’s destiny to meet and marry a man dressed as Santa, just like her mother and grandmother before her. So it seems cosmically unfair that the man she makes an instant connection with at an annual Santa Run is lost in the crowd before she can get his name.
What follows is Susan and her friends’ hilarious and heartwarming search for the mystery Santa—covering twelve months of social media snafus, authors behaving badly and dating fails—as well as a poignant look at family, friendship and what defines a well-lived and well-loved life.
“Viola Shipman has written a captivating story for anyone whose memories run deep… This book keeps faith and hope alive!” —New York Times bestselling author Sherryl Woods

A Country Living Magazine Best Christmas Book to Read This Holiday Season!

My Review:

First of all, A Wish for Winter is a heartfelt love letter to the entire Mitten State of Michigan. Every single square inch and winter snowflake of it, from the hungry lakes to the deep bays to the very rocks, specifically the Petoskey stones that are foundation, the bedrock, the official state rock and the name for the tiny tourist town where the Claus family, officially known as the Norcross family, make their home.

Second, this is very much a paean to the spirit of Christmas – not necessarily in the religious sense but rather in the faith and belief that is strangely but sometimes beautifully displayed by the more ‘Hallmark-y’ aspects of the season. The idea that with a bit of belief in the magic of the season, it is more than possible to reach out and pluck a star – or at least a happy ending – down from the heavens, the top of a tree, or the place where dreams really do come true.

It is also a sometimes heartbreaking but ultimately uplifting story of Susan Norcross, the owner of the Sleigh by the Bay bookstore in beautiful Petoskey, Michigan, where her grandparents play the part of Mr. and Mrs. Claus every December in the front window of the store she inherited from them.

Susan’s grandparents may keep Christmas in their hearts all year round, and display it pretty much every chance they get, but Susan hasn’t felt all the joy of the holiday since she was ten years old. Because that’s the holiday season when her parents were killed by a drunk driver. Susan is now forty, the age her mother was when she died, and she’s been stuck cycling through the first four stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining and depression) for the past thirty years without ever reaching acceptance.

Without ever managing to forgive either the drunk driver – in a coma all these years – or herself.

Not that Susan hasn’t had her own version of a wonderful life. Her grandparents are everything anyone could ever have wanted in mentors, parents AND grandparents. She’s an integral part of a town that loves and supports her and her bookstore, she’s respected in the publishing industry to the point where authors, their agents and their publishers court her for appearances at her store and cover quotes.

And she has the best, most supportive even if sometimes a bit too up in her business best friend in the world. Along with excellent colleagues who have become the greatest found family she could ever have imagined.

As her 40th year approaches she’s becoming aware that there’s something missing. Both her mother and her grandmother met their perfect matches when said matches were wearing Santa suits. As a child, Susan expected to do the same. Then her parents were taken from her and she walled herself off from getting too involved and being too hurt.

But those friends, those wonderful, loving, a bit too intrusive friends, have a solution to Susan’s missing ‘Single (Kris) Kringle’ by putting Susan’s search for the Santa of her dreams on social media and inviting the entire country to watch her hunt for her very own one true Santa.

They’re going to pull Susan out of her uncomfortably comfortable rut – no matter how many likes and ‘thumbs up’ emojis it takes to make it happen.

Escape Rating B: If you’ve ever heard of “sad fluff” and wondered what it was, look no further because A Wish for Winter is a perfect example of the type. “Sad fluff” is a story where a whole lot of sad stuff happens but at the same time there’s an earned happy ending – whether romantic or not – and there are plenty of happy or even funny bits in the story. There’s lots of good support for the main character, but that character is still going through the story with a sucky place inside and the tone of the book is ultimately just a bit, well, sad.

And that’s A Wish for Winter in a nutshell. Susan has plenty of reasons to be sad, reasons that still overwhelm her at times even after 30 years. And there’s no one process or amount of time needed for an individual to process their grief, which in Susan’s case is not just real but also overwhelming. Because Susan suffered such a big loss so young, it has affected her entire life. It’s not something she’s ever going to get over or get past, nor should she. But she’s well past the point where she needs to reach the acceptance stage of grief and not hold onto it quite so tightly because the only person it’s hurting is herself.

The story of Susan taking those two steps forward, one step back towards that acceptance is a bit halting – not in the pacing sense but because her journey is supposed to be halting and uncertain. Still, her journey through that slough of despond hangs over all of the lighter moments in the book.

Although there certainly are plenty of those lighter moments. Her friends are an absolute delight even as they are invading her comfort zone, pushing her out of it and making her hesitant search for her HEA go viral.

I also adored the love of books and reading and bookstores, and the transformative power of all of the above that practically shines through every page. This story has all the elements of being a book lover’s delight from the very beginning.

As a reader, I found the sadness of the sad fluff took a bit too much of the joy out of a story that is ultimately joyful. For me, that pall took a bit too long for the book to process – making no comments whatsoever on how long it took the character to process it because no one can go there for another.

In the end, I liked the book, I liked some aspects of it quite a lot, but didn’t quite love it as much as I did my first exposure to the author’s work in The Clover Girls. Your reading mileage, of course, may vary.

Review: The Twist of a Knife by Anthony Horowitz

Review: The Twist of a Knife by Anthony HorowitzThe Twist of a Knife (Hawthorne and Horowitz Mystery, #4) by Anthony Horowitz
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, suspense, thriller
Series: Hawthorne and Horowitz #4
Pages: 384
Published by Harper on November 15, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook DepositoryBookshop.org
Goodreads

'Our deal is over.'
That's what reluctant author Anthony Horowitz tells ex-detective Daniel Hawthorne in an awkward meeting. The truth is that Anthony has other things on his mind.
His new play, Mindgame, is about to open in London's Vaudeville theatre. Not surprisingly Hawthorne declines a ticket.
On opening night, Sunday Times critic Harriet Throsby gives the play a savage review, focusing particularly on the writing. The next morning she is found dead, stabbed in the heart with an ornamental dagger which, it turns out, belongs to Anthony and which has his finger prints all over it.
Anthony is arrested, charged with Throsby's murder, thrown into prison and interrogated.
Alone and increasingly desperate, he realises only one man can help him.
But will Hawthorne take his call?

My Review:

In this fourth outing of the extremely unlikely duo of Daniel Hawthorne and his reluctant scribe – and all too frequently foil – Anthony Horowitz (yes, the author, really, truly and probably sorta/kinda all at once), it’s Horowitz himself who is accused of murder and quite thoroughly stitched up into the bargain.

He needs Hawthorne, which puts Hawthorne very much in the catbird seat of their strange partnership. Horowitz, referred to as ‘Tony’ in the book to differentiate himself as character from his real self as author, has just turned down Hawthorne’s request that they pair up for yet a fourth book, after The Word is Murder, The Sentence is Death and A Line to Kill.

Tony feels like he’s both out of punny titles and out of patience with Hawthorne. The former, obviously not as it turns out. The latter, frequently and often.

But Hawthorne is sure they have an entire series in them, and lo and behold, they do!

Escape Rating A+: The Hawthorne and Horowitz series is a quirky read. If you like it, you really, really like it (obviously I do), but if its quirks don’t quite set your tastes on fire, they don’t. It’s a break the fourth wall kind of series, with a heaping helping of art imitating life rather a lot.

The Horowitz of the series title is the author of the book, Anthony Horowitz. He’s a version – at least I presume it’s a version – of his real-life self, Anthony Horowitz the novelist and playwright, the creative mind behind the still totally awesome TV series Foyle’s War, etc., etc., etc. But he is far, far from the hero of this series.

He plays Watson to the Sherlock of ex-London Metropolitan police detective Daniel Hawthorne. And it’s a bumbling Watson who sometimes makes the most vapid and insipid portrayals of Watson look like absolute geniuses. (Edward Hardwicke’s wonderful and intelligent take on Watson in the Granada TV series with Jeremy Brett ‘Tony’ most certainly is NOT.)

In other words, the author resisted what must have been a great temptation to make himself the hero of this series and instead turned himself into its everyman substitute for the audience, the character who is not able to follow the ‘great detective’, in this case Hawthorne, and requires that every clue be explained to him – and therefore to the audience as well.

Which is part of the charm of this series, and also part of why it runs so much against type for me as a reader and yet I still adore the damn thing. Because I usually read mysteries for their competence porn aspects. The investigator in the series usually demonstrates extreme competence in order to solve the twisty murder. And that’s not exactly what happens here.

Tony is far from competent as an amateur detective, in spite of the many mysteries he’s written. He’s always at least two steps behind Hawthorne. Which actually isn’t too bad as the real police are at least three or four steps behind him. But still, he’s made his own character a bit of a nebbish and I can’t help but wonder if that reflects real life AT ALL. I suspect not or he wouldn’t be half as successful as he is.

But I digress.

Hawthorne, on the other hand, is über-competent. He’s just a secretive asshole about it. So we don’t get to see what he’s really doing or thinking until the very end when he makes everyone involved look like utter fools. Because they were. So he’s extremely competent but we don’t get to enjoy it because he’s such a jerk about pretty much everything.

Like most mysteries where the official police are more interested in scoring off the private detective – in this case Hawthorne and by extension his ‘associate’ Tony – than solving the crime, the first suspect is never the real murderer. So it can’t be Tony, no matter how the evidence seems stacked against him.

That the victim was a vile individual that had made a career out of publicly venting their spleen should have led even the dimmest bulb to the possibility that the line of possible murderers would be long enough to circle the country at least twice. To the point where I was beginning to wonder if it was going to turn out to be a Murder on the Orient Express situation.

In the end, the solution is ingenious, the motive was both simple and complex at the same time, the killer was exposed but no one got their just desserts except the woman who was already dead. And that was exactly right.

While Hawthorne got his series after all. Which is fantastic!

While I can’t find any word on when the projected fifth, sixth and seventh (!) books in the Hawthorne and Horowitz series will be out, or even the next book in the Susan Ryeland series which I also love (even when it’s driving me crazy), the first book in that series, Magpie Murders, is now available as a 6-episode TV series. And I’m off to watch it ASAP!

Review: The Three Dahlias by Katy Watson

Review: The Three Dahlias by Katy WatsonThe Three Dahlias (Dahlia Lively #1) by Katy Watson
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: cozy mystery
Series: Dahlia Lively #1
Pages: 304
Published by Hachette Books, Mobius on July 26, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook DepositoryBookshop.org
Goodreads

Three rival actresses team up to solve a murder at the stately home of the author who made them famous - only to discover the solution lies in the stories themselves. A contemporary mystery with a Golden Age feel, perfect for fans of Agatha Christie and Jessica Fellowes.
In attendance: the VIP fans, staying at Aldermere; the fan club president turned convention organizer; the team behind the newest movie adaptation of Davenport's books; the Davenport family themselves - and the three actresses famous for portraying Lettice's 1930s detective, Dahlia Lively.
National treasure Rosalind King, from the original movies. TV Dahlia for thirteen seasons, Caro Hooper. And ex-child star Posy Starling, fresh out of the fame wilderness (and rehab) to take on the Dahlia mantle for the new movie.
Each actress has her own interpretation of the character - but this English summer weekend they will have to put aside their differences, as the crimes at Aldermere turns anything but cosy.
When fictional death turns into real bodies, can the three Dahlias find the answers to the murders among the fans, the film crew, the family - or even in Lettice's books themselves?

My Review:

The Three Dahlias is intended to take readers back to the genteel but thrilling mysteries of Dame Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers and Marjory Allingham but with a contemporary twist. What better way to combine the golden age of mystery with the present than by a convention of mystery fans, set on the grounds where one of their favorite mystery series was written, with not one but three of the actors playing their favorite character serving as guests of honor?

It may sound like a scheme guaranteed to give the fans the experience of a lifetime. But anyone who was a true student of those mysteries would tell you that the convention is also the perfect setting for murder. If only to provide the once and future Dahlias with the opportunity to solve either their last – or their first – case.

All they have to do is stop trying to one-up each other long enough to figure out whodunnit.

Escape Rating B: Although there’s a mystery, this isn’t really about the mystery. It’s about the people, and very much like Knives Out, about the relationships between the people and where the hidden stress points are.

That no one is going to miss the victims makes it that much easier for the reader to sink into the story and just enjoy the fun – even if it does take the first third of the book to really get going.

Because first we have those three Dahlias, and they are much more interesting than the murder. The three women represent different stages of life and different points in a career. If this were a fantasy they’d be the classic female triptych of maiden, mother, crone. Or perhaps the Fates. Certainly the fate of both the victims and the perpetrator.

It all starts with someone who seems to be out to get all of them – only for that person to end up getting got. And not by any of them. But along the way, what makes the story fun is the way that these women, literally set up to be rivals at every turn, band together in an unusual bond of sisterhood.

After all, they are all Dahlia, and it’s up to Dahlia to investigate murder when she sees it.

What made this fun as a reader was that I kept wanting to figure out, not so much whodunnit, as ‘who is Dahlia?’ (The idea of the convention seems more than plausible. After all, there is an annual Agatha Christie convention in Torquay.) The thing is that Dahlia Lively reminds me a lot of Phryne Fisher, but that series didn’t even start being published until 1989. There’s not enough history.

There have been more than enough Miss Marples, but that’s a role that an actor takes on much later in her career. Tommy and Tuppence hasn’t been filmed nearly often enough. But it’s fun to imagine.

The Three Dahlias turned out to be light and frothy fun. It’s a lovely little mystery, very atmospheric as a murder at a fan convention (my favorite in this vein is STILL Bimbos of the Death Sun), and as an homage to the Golden Age of Mystery and as a classic country-house murder all rolled into one.

If you’re looking for a light distraction filled with just the right amount of found sisterhood and murderous intentions, The Three Dahlias is quite the treat.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 11-27-22

I hope you had a wonderful Turkey Day, where the bird was moist, the sides were tasty, and the company was excellent. We had turkey by ourselves on THE DAY, and chili with friends on Saturday – so an excellent holiday weekend at Chez Reading Reality.

I also hope that you had an opportunity – or two or three – to visit ALL the stops on the Thankful for Books Giveaway Hop and enter as many times as allowed! I’m always thankful for books and reading – and laughing a bit that one of the gamification badges in this season’s Kindle Challenge is to “READ INSTEAD” of shopping this Black Friday weekend.

And here’s a picture of Miss Hecate. I should say she’s sleeping off HER turkey coma, but this is a picture of her regularly scheduled afternoon nap in Galen’s office. Hecate naps in Galen’s office while Luna naps in mine. Everybody has their own spot and that’s just the way they like it!

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Thankful for Books Giveaway Hop (ENDS TOMORROW!!!!!)
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Super Stocking Stuffer Giveaway Hop (ENDS TUESDAY!!!)
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the In All Things Give Thanks Giveaway Hop (ENDS WEDNESDAY!)
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Fall 2022 Seasons of Books Giveaway Hop

Blog Recap:

Thankful for Books Giveaway Hop 2022
B+ Review: Mr. Clarke’s Deepest Desire by Sophie Barnes
A- Review: Ship Wrecked by Olivia Dade
Thanksgiving 2022 (Guest post by Galen! – with Luna pictures!)
A Review: The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle by Jennifer Ryan
Stacking the Shelves (524)

Coming This Week:

The Three Dahlias by Katy Watson
The Twist of a Knife by Anthony Horowitz (review)
Partners in Crime by Alisha Rai (review)
A Wish for Winter by Viola Shipman (review)
Holly Jolly Giveaway Hop