Maia Chance: Beauty, Beast and Belladonna Wednesday, Feb 10 2016 

Auntie M has hosted and reviewed author Maia Chance before. She likes to mix fairy tales with mystery in a smart and intriguing way. For her new release, we decided to shake things up: Here’s a Q/A from the author, followed by an excerpt from her new book, Beauty, Beast and Belladonna.

Beauty, Beast

1) Describe Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna in 140 characters or less.

Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna is a fun, adventurous, and romantic historical mystery set in a secret-riddled French chateau in 1867.

2.) What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Happiness for me is spending time outside somewhere beautiful, with my husband, kids, and dog.

3.) What’s your favorite part of Ophelia’s quirky personality?

I like the way Ophelia compensates in creative and gutsy ways for her lack of a good formal education. She’s smart and resourceful and she uses her unusual skill set—farm girl, circus performer, actress—to help solve the mystery.

4.) Which living person do you most admire?

My husband, actually. He is an unusually gifted person who overcame significant disadvantages and obstacles to get where he is today. And he gives the best pep-talks!

5.) What inspired you to marry fairytales and mystery?

I was searching for something that hadn’t been done yet, and I was reading a lot of fairy tale criticism for school at the time. It sounded like a deliciously fun project, so I plunged in.

6.) Is there a type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?

Dialogue definitely comes more easily for me. I find action scenes more challenging—I’m paranoid that they’ll get bogged down. (So if I can, I add dialogue to my action scenes!)

7.) What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Sticking to strict schedules. I don’t like to keep people waiting, but there is something to be said for giving yourself creative or restful wiggle-room during the day.

8.) Which of the characters in this novel do you feel the most drawn to?

I became more attached to Professor Penrose in this book. He’s more vulnerable and at a loss than in the previous two books—and more deeply in love.

9.) Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Oh, my. Probably dozens. I seem to like “buzz” a lot for some reason. I’m deleting it all the time.

10.) Can you describe for us your process for naming characters?

For historical American characters I use census records. I collect names from cemeteries whenever I visit one, and I often borrow names from literature. Since my books have lots of characters, I try to give them all distinctive names that hint at their personalities, to help the reader keep everyone sorted in their mind.

11.) Who are your favorite writers?

Agatha Christie, P.G. Wodehouse, Edith Wharton and Theodor Adorno.

12.) Who is your most loved hero of fiction?

Indiana Jones.

13.) Which talent would you most like to have?

It would be ecstasy to be a really, really great opera singer.

14.) You’re hosting a dinner party, which five authors (dead or alive) would you invite?

P. G. Wodehouse would probably be the life of any party. Also, Agatha Christie, Edgar Allan Poe, Shakespeare, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. There would be lots of drinking at this party. Maybe some arguments. No strip poker though.

15.) Do you have a favorite time period in literature?

Not really. Because of my English degrees I have read very widely, and I have favorites from every era. And every era has its stultifyingly boring authors, too.

16.) What is your motto?
Keep trying.

17.) What is the best reaction over a book that you’ve ever gotten from a fan?

Fans who say my book gave them pure pleasure—that’s happened a few times—make me so happy. It’s my aim to give people something to read that’s a pleasurable and absorbing diversion from Real Life. Real Life is hard.

18.) Where would you most like to live?

A place with lots of trees where I could do all my daily activities and errands on foot. I’m working on it.

19.) Which historical figure do you most identify with?

No one specific, but I often think of the female writers over the centuries who kept at their stories even when they had screaming kids and the dinner to cook and a really messy house piling up around them. They did it, and so can I.

20.) What are you working on next?

I just completed a humorous contemporary mystery that does not yet have a publisher, and I’m working on a historical fantasy adventure with a co-author. After that, the next thing will be book #3 of the Discreet Retrieval Agency series.

And now for that promised excerpt:

“What’s this?” Ophelia had almost stepped on something at the base of the cave wall.
Penrose crouched and held the lantern over it. “Good God,” he muttered. “Is it . . . a shrine?”
Small earthenware dishes held what appeared to be chocolate drops, purple berries, and loose pearls. A clay vase held a red and white striped rose.
Churches in New England didn’t have shrines. They didn’t even have stained glass windows or statues.
“Pearls,” Ophelia said. “Madame Dieudonné was missing a pearl necklace.” But—she looked carefully at the shrine—no ruby ring. Still, the pearls connected the shrine, very loosely, to the missing ring. There was hope yet.
“This resembles the offerings people of the Orient assemble for their gods or ancestors,” Penrose said.
“Those are belladonna berries, professor.” The skin of Ophelia’s back felt all itchy and crawly, and she stole a glance to the black gap where the cave continued into the earth. Someone could be back there. Watching.
“Miss Flax,” Penrose said slowly. “Look at this.” He lifted the lantern, illuminating the picture on the wall above the shrine.
Heavens to Betsy. A carved, black-painted beast, half-man, half-boar, undulated in the light.
The body of the beast was like a man’s, although the feet seemed—Gabriel squinted—yes, they seemed to have hooves. But the head! It was unmistakably that of a furry boar, with large pointed tusks and tiny round ears.
A slight crunching sound made Gabriel and Miss Flax freeze. Their eyes met.
Gabriel knew that somewhere in the shadows, someone or something lay in wait.
Miss Flax, wide-eyed, in those awful trousers, seemed at once horribly vulnerable and dear beyond measure. The pistol tucked into Gabriel waistband felt newly heavy. He picked up the lantern and slowly stood, willing himself not to exude the essence of fear in case whatever was watching was an animal.
“Come,” he mouthed to Miss Flax, wrapping his free hand around her wrist. “Slowly.”
She stayed very close to him as they walked steadily out of the cave.
They emerged into the cold, damp night. The moon glowed whitely above. The air tasted of soil and rot.
“Shouldn’t you extinguish the lamp?” Miss Flax whispered as they started down the rocky, ice-slicked slope. “So they can’t see us?” She tugged her wrist free of his hand so she could climb.
“Wild animals are afraid of light.” Gabriel longed to grab her wrist again, to enfold her, keep her safe. If something were to befall her—
“It wasn’t an animal in there,” Miss Flax said. “It was a human being. I could feel it. Animals don’t make one feel so frightened.”
“Not any animals?”
“No. Animals never seem evil, and I felt something evil up there in the cave.”


Beware of allowing yourself to be prejudiced by appearances. –Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, “Beauty and the Beast” (1756)


The day had arrived. Miss Ophelia Flax’s last day in Paris, her last day in Artemis Stunt’s gilt-edged apartment choked with woody perfumes and cigarette haze. Ophelia had chosen December 12th, 1867, at eleven o’clock in the morning as the precise time she would make a clean breast of it. And now it was half past ten.
Ophelia swept aside brocade curtains and shoved a window open. Rain spattered her face. She leaned out and squinted up the street. Boulevard Saint-Michel was a valley of stone buildings with iron balconies and steep slate roofs. Beyond carriages and bobbling umbrellas, a horse-drawn omnibus splashed closer.
“Time to go,” she said, and latched the window shut. She turned. “Good-bye, Henrietta. You will write to me—telegraph me, even—if Prue changes her mind about the convent?”
“Of course, darling.” Henrietta Bright sat at the vanity table, still in her frothy dressing gown. “But where shall I send a letter?” She shrugged a half-bare shoulder in the looking glass. Reassuring herself, no doubt, that at forty-odd years of age she was still just as dazzling as the New York theater critics used to say.
“I’ll let the clerk at Howard DeLuxe’s Varieties know my forwarding address,” Ophelia said. “Once I have one.” She pulled on cheap gloves with twice-darned fingertips.
“What will you do in New England?” Henrietta asked. “Besides getting buried under snowdrifts and puritans? I’ve been to Boston. The entire city is like a mortuary. No drinking on Sundays, either.” She sipped her glass of poison-green cordial. “Although, all that knuckle-rapping does make the gentlemen more generous with actresses like us when they get the chance.”
“Actresses like us?” Ophelia went to her carpetbag, packed and ready on the opulent bed that might’ve suited the Princess on the Pea. Ladies born and raised on New Hampshire farmsteads did not sleep in such beds. Not without prickles of guilt, at least. “I’m no longer an actress, Henrietta. Neither are you.” And they were never the same kind of actress. Or so Ophelia fervently wished to believe.
“No? Then what precisely do you call tricking the Count Griffe into believing you are a wealthy soap heiress from Cleveland, Ohio? Sunday school lessons?”
“I had to do it.” Ophelia dug in her carpetbag and pulled out a bonnet with crusty patches of glue where ribbon flowers once had been. She clamped it on her head. “I’m calling upon the Count Griffe at eleven o’clock, on my way to the steamship ticket office. I told you. He scarpered to England so soon after his proposal, I never had a chance to confess. He’s in Paris only today before he goes to his country château, so today is my last chance to tell him everything.”
“It’s horribly selfish of you not to wait two more weeks, Ophelia—two measly weeks.”
Not this old song and dance again. “Wait two more weeks so that you might accompany me to the hunting party at Griffe’s château? Stand around and twiddle my thumbs for two whole weeks while you hornswoggle some poor old gent into marrying you? Money and love don’t mix, you know.”
“What? They mix beautifully. And not hornswoggle, darling. Seduce. And Mr. Larsen isn’t a poor gentleman. He’s as rich as Midas. Artemis confirmed as much.”
“You know what I meant. Helpless.”
“Mr. Larsen is a widower, yes.” Henrietta smiled. “Deliciously helpless.”
“I must go now, Henrietta. Best of luck to you.”
“I’m certain Artemis would loan you her carriage—oh, wait. Principled Miss Ophelia Flax must forge her own path. Miss Ophelia Flax never accepts hand-outs or—”
“Artemis has been ever so kind, allowing me to stay here the last three weeks, and I couldn’t impose any more.” Artemis Stunt was Henrietta’s friend, a wealthy lady authoress. “I’ll miss my omnibus.” Ophelia pawed through the carpetbag, past her battered theatrical case and a patched petticoat, and drew out a small box. The box, shiny black with painted roses, had been a twenty-sixth birthday gift from Henrietta last week. It was richer than the rest of Ophelia’s possessions by miles, but it served a purpose: a place to hide her little nest egg.
The omnibus fare, she well knew from her month in Paris, was thirty centimes. She opened the box. Her lungs emptied like a bellows. A slip of paper curled around the ruby ring Griffe had given her. But her money—all of her hard-won money she’d scraped together working as a lady’s maid in Germany a few months back—was gone. Gone.
She swung toward Henrietta. “Where did you hide it?”
“Hide what?”
“My money!”
“Scowling like that will only give you wrinkles.”
“I don’t even have enough for the omnibus fare now.” Ophelia’s plans suddenly seemed vaporously fragile. “Now isn’t the time for jests, Henrietta. I must get to Griffe’s house so I might go to the steamship ticket office before it closes, and then on to the train station. The Cherbourg-New York ship leaves only once a fortnight.”
“Why don’t you simply keep that ring? You’ll be in the middle of the Atlantic before he even knows you’ve gone. If it’s a farm you desire, why, that ring will pay for five farms and two hundred cows.”
Ophelia wasn’t the smelling salts kind of lady, but her fingers shook as she replaced the box’s lid. “Never. I would never steal this ring—”
“He gave it to you. It wouldn’t be stealing.”
“—and I will never, ever become. . . .” Ophelia pressed her lips together.
“Become like me, darling?”
If Ophelia fleeced rich fellows to pay her way instead of working like honest folks, then she couldn’t live with herself. What would become of her? Would she find herself at forty in dressing gowns at midday and absinthe on her breath?
“You must realize I didn’t take your money, Ophelia. I’ve got my sights set rather higher than your pitiful little field mouse hoard. But I see how unhappy you are, so I’ll make you an offer.”
Ophelia knew the animal glint in Henrietta’s whiskey-colored eyes. “You wish to pay to accompany me to Griffe’s hunting party so that you might pursue Mr. Larsen. Is that it?
“Clever girl. You ought to set yourself up in a tent with a crystal ball. Yes. I’ll pay you whatever it was the servants stole—and I’ve no doubt it was one of those horrid Spanish maids that Artemis hired who pinched your money. Only keep up the Cleveland soap heiress ruse for two weeks longer, Ophelia, until I hook that Norwegian fish.”
Ophelia pictured the green fields and white-painted buildings of rural New England, and her throat ached with frustration. The trouble was, it was awfully difficult to forge your own path when you were always flat broke. “Pay me double or nothing,” she said.
“Deal. Forthwith will be so pleased.”
“Forthwith?” Ophelia frowned. “Forthwith Golden, conjurer of the stage? Do you mean to say he’ll be tagging along with us?”
“Mm.” Henrietta leaned close to the mirror and picked something from her teeth with her little fingernail. “He’s ever so keen for a jaunt in the country, and he adores blasting at beasts with guns.”
Saints preserve us.

* * *

Ophelia meant to cling to her purpose like a barnacle to a rock. It wasn’t easy. Simply gritting her teeth and enduring the next two weeks was not really her way. But Henrietta had her up a stump.
First, there had been the two-day flurry of activity in Artemis Stunt’s apartment, getting a wardrobe ready for Ophelia to play the part of a fashionable heiress at a hunting party. Artemis was over fifty years of age but, luckily, a bohemian and so with youthful tastes in clothing. She was also tall, beanstalkish and large-footed, just like Ophelia, and very enthusiastic about the entire deception. “It would make a marvelous novelette, I think,” she said to Ophelia. But this was exactly what Ophelia wished to avoid: behaving like a ninny in a novelette.
And now, this interminable journey.
“Where are we now?” Henrietta, bundled in furs, stared dully out the coach window. “The sixth tier of hell?”
Ophelia consulted the Baedeker on her knees, opened to a map of the Périgord region. “Almost there.”
“There being the French version of the Middle of Nowhere,” Forthwith Golden said, propping his boots on the seat next to Henrietta. “Why do these Europeans insist upon living in these Godforsaken pockets? What’s wrong with Paris, anyway?”
“You said you missed the country air.” Henrietta shoved his boots off the seat.
“Did I?” Forthwith had now and then performed conjuring tricks in Howard DeLuxe’s Varieties back in New York, so Ophelia knew more of him than she cared to. He was dark-haired, too handsome, and skilled at making things disappear. Especially money.
“You insisted upon coming along,” Henrietta said to Forthwith, “and don’t try to deny it.”
“Ah, yes, but Henny, you neglected to tell me that your purpose for this hunting excursion was to ensnare some doddering old corpse into matrimony. I’ve seen that performance of yours a dozen times, precious, and it’s gotten a bit boring.”
“Oh, do shut up. You’re only envious because you spent your last penny on hair pomade.”
“I hoped you’d notice. Does Mr. Larsen have any hair at all? Or does he attempt to fool the world by combing two long hairs over a liver-spotted dome?”
“He’s an avid sportsman, Artemis says, and a crack shot. So I’d watch my tongue if I were you.”
“Oh dear God. A codger with a shotgun.”
“He wishes to go hunting in the American West. Shoot buffalos from the train and all that.”
“One of those Continentals who have glamorized the whole Westward Ho business, not realizing that it’s all freezing to death and eating Aunt Emily’s thighbone in the mountains?”
Ophelia sighed. Oh, for a couple wads of cotton wool to stop up her ears. Henrietta and Forthwith had been bickering for the entire journey, first in the train compartment between Paris and Limoges and then, since there wasn’t a train station within 50 miles of Château Vézère, in this bone-rattling coach. Outside, hills, hills, and more hills. Bare, scrubby trees and meandering vineyards. Farmhouses of sulpherous yellow stone.
A tiny orange sun sank over a murky river. Each time a draft swept through the coach, Ophelia tasted the minerals that foretold snow.
“Ophelia,” Forthwith said, nudging her.
“What is it?”
Forthwith made series of fluid motions with his hands, and a green and yellow parakeet fluttered out of his cuff and landed on his finger.
“That’s horrible. How long has that critter been stuffed up your sleeve?” Ophelia poked out a finger and the parakeet hopped on. Feathers tufted on the side of its head and its eyes were possibly glazed. It was hard to say with a parakeet. “Poor thing.”
“It hasn’t got feelings, silly.” Forthwith yawned.
“Finally,” Henrietta said, sitting up straighter. “We’ve arrived.”
The coach passed through ornate gates. Naked trees cast shadows across a long avenue. They clattered to a stop before the huge front door. Château Vézère was three stories, rectangular, and built of yellow stone, with six chimneys, white-painted shutters, and dozens of tall, glimmering windows. Bare black vegetation encroached on either side, and Ophelia saw some smaller stone buildings to the side.
“Looks like a costly doll’s house,” Henrietta said.
“I rather thought it looked like a mental asylum,” Forthwith said.
Ophelia slid Griffe’s ruby ring on her hand, the hand that wasn’t holding a parakeet. Someone swung the coach door open.
“Let the show begin, darlings,” Henrietta murmured.

A footman in green livery helped Ophelia down first. Garon Gavage, the Count Griffe, bounded forward to greet her. “Mademoiselle Stonewall, I have been restless, sleepless, in anticipation of your arrival—ah, how belle you look.” His dark gold mane of hair wafted in the breeze. “How I have longed for your presence—what is this? A petit bird?”
“What? Oh. Yes.” Ophelia couldn’t even begin to explain the parakeet. “It’s very nice to see you, Count. How long has it been? Three weeks?”
Griffe’s burly chest rose and fell. “Nineteen days, twenty hours, and thirty-two minutes.”
Forthwith was out of the coach and pumping Griffe’s hand. “Count Griffe,” he said with a toothy white smile, “pleased to meet you. My sister has told me all about you.”
Ophelia’s belly lurched.
“Sister?” Griffe knit his brow.
“I beg your pardon,” Forthwith said. “I’m Forthwith Stonewall, Ophelia’s brother. Didn’t my sister tell you I was coming along?”
The rat.
“Ah!” Griffe clapped Forthwith on the shoulder. “Monsieur Stonewall. Perhaps your sister did mention it—I have been most distracted by business matters in England, très forgetful . . . And who is this?” Griffe nodded to Henrietta as she stepped down from the coach. “Another delightful American relation, eh?”
It had better not be. Ophelia said, “This is—”
“Mrs. Henrietta Brighton,” Henrietta said quickly, and then gave a sad smile.
Precisely when had Miss Henrietta Bright become Mrs. Henrietta Brighton? And . . . oh, merciful heavens. How could Ophelia have been so blind? Henrietta was in black. All in black.
“Did Miss Stonewall neglect to mention that I would chaperone her on this visit?” Henrietta asked Griffe. “I am a dear friend of the Stonewall family, and I have been on a Grand Tour in order to take my mind away from my poor darling—darling . . . oh.” She dabbed her eyes with a hankie.
Griffe took Henrietta’s arm and patted it as he led her through the front door. “A widow, oui? My most profound condolences, Madame Brighton. You are very welcome here.”
Ophelia and Forthwith followed. The parakeet’s feet clung to Ophelia’s finger, and tiny snowflakes fell from the darkening sky.
“You’re shameless,” Ophelia said to Forthwith in a hot whisper.
Forthwith grinned. “Aren’t I, though?”

5 Great Reads from Other Eras~ Wednesday, Aug 19 2015 

Auntie M has a stack of great reads written in other eras, so here’s a wealth of resources for those of you who prefer your crime to be set in other than contemporary times.

Reaching back into time is Laura Lebow’s The Figaro Murders, which brings 1786 Vienna to life.Figaro

Venetian Lorenzo Da Ponte has lived in Vienna for five years but still misses Venice. As court librettist, his current job for Emperor Joseph II is to finish the libretto for a revised version of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro , to please the Emperor, before its premiere the following week. It’s a tense situation as his previous libretto for a Salieri opera in the recent past closed after just one performance. The job is not as glamorous nor as well paid as it sounds, and a morning trip to his barber will change Lorenzo’s life.

The barber, Vogel, is on his way to debtor’s prison for a year, unable to pay the loan he used to open his shop, and begs Lorenzo to visit his fiancee, Marianne. He gives Lorenzo a box he’s found hidden in the closet of his recently-deceased mother–who told him shortly before her death that he had been adopted. Convinced his real family is one of noble origins and as a way to get him out of prison, Vogel expects that Lorenzo will aid Marianne to unearth his real family connections and save him and his marriage.

The box contains three innocuous items as Lorenzo’s only clues: a white fur ladies muff, a French grammar book, and a small ring, perhaps a betrothal ring. These three things will turn out to be the only link left to Lorenzo, and at first glance they appear to be of little value.

Lorenzo has an unusual visit to the Palais Gabler, home to a well-placed diplomat, where Marianne is employed. And then the unthinkable happens: he is arrested for a murder that apparently occurred during his visit to the Gabler home. Now the only way to clear his name is to undercover and find the real murderer, or be hanged for a crime he didn’t commit.

Filled with characters like Mozart and Salieri, the music matters of the Court and the time spring to life in this perspective of a certain period. A solid historical mystery.

We switch to Dublin in 1887 for Conor Brady’s intriguing debut, A June of Ordinary Murders. The former editor of The Irish Times has written of the time in Victorian Dublin when crimes were classified as either “special” or “ordinary.” Special was for political crimes; murder was deemed ordinary.

The city readies for its celebration of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee during an oppressive heatwave that everyone suffers under, just as they are under the threat of growing nationalist violence and a rising underworld of master criminals.

Enter DS Joe Swallow, tasked with investigating two murders when the mutilated bodies of an adult and a young boy are found in Phoenix Park. As he digs deeper, he learns he must be politically correct as he delves into the upper reaches of Dublin society. With his own success rooted in the past, Swallow his been a copper long enough to have enemies in the press and in his own department, and he needs to get this one right.

It seems the two deaths are connected, and then a woman’s body is found floating in the Grand Canal, and as the body count rises, so does the pressure on Swallow to effect an end to the string of killings.

Brady’s vivid descriptions bring this time of long ago to life, from the land wars to the country readying itself for the Queen’s visit during the heat, adding to the sense of languidness everyone involved feels. And Swallow has his own dark life to contemplate.

There are plenty of layers and different nuances as the police investigation unfolds. An interesting side component is to see the ‘forensics’ of 1887. Fans of The Murdoch Mysteries will eat this one up.

Dead Assassin
Vaughn Entwhistle introduced “the paranormal casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle” in last year’s The Revenant of Thraxton Hall. This second installment, set in 1895, brings back Doyle and his good friend Oscar Wilde as characters, to the readers delight, in The Dead Assassin.

The atmosphere is tense in London, with bombs detonating and causing anyone of a foreign nature to be suspected of being an anarchist.
Doyle’s dinner out is interrupted when a senior member of the government is brutally murdered, as is his assassin. One of the detectives recognizes the assassin as a pickpocket and petty thief, Higginbotham, who’s lived a life of low level crime. Then it turns out this same man couldn’t be the assassin–he was hanged two weeks ago. So how did he appear to be able to carry off the murder from his grave?

This obvious attempt at obfuscation brings Doyle and Wilde into the midst of a bizarre investigation with so many lives in peril readers will be surprised at how far the tendrils reach. This sequel is heavier and darker than the debut, especially once it’s established that the ongoing killings appear to be committed by criminals who are already dead.

Frankenstein meets Holmes, or in this case, Doyle, in this look at dark Victorian times–what can only be expected from an author who once ran a business that sculpted gargoyles.

Andrew Williams takes readers to 1917 Britain with a spy thriller based on real events in The Suicide Club
, a convincing and atmospheric mystery that is as well written as it is well researched.

Passchendaele is a nightmare, and Captain Alexander Innes of the Cameron Highlanders, badly wounded at the Somme, is taken off the front lines and seconded to the Secret Service, working in Belgium with the Resistance.

When he’s recalled to London to General Haig’s headquarters, his new assignment as a spy is to ascertain if the intelligence being delivered to the High Command is reliable.

What he learns is that the intelligence is suspect, and with the leaders using Innes for their own devices, the political tension–and the stakes for the outcome–rise sharply. Innes will find himself send back to Belgium, where the book’s action heats up even more.

The horrors of war are not glossed over, nor are the terrible outcomes for many devoted Resistance members of an occupied country. Fair to its real life characters, even Innes’ love affair feels grounded in reality.

Written with a deft hand, perfect for fans of John LeCarre’ and Alan Furst.

A Woman Unknown
It’s 1920’s England in Frances Brody’s fourth Kate Shackleton mystery, A Woman Unknown.

The accidental private investigator is first called on to uncover where a young woman goes when she tells her husband she is visiting her ill mum.
Cyril Fitzpatrick is concerned about his wife, Deirdre, and wants to know just where his wife really disappears to. Kate is wary of the job–she has come across Deirdre Fitzpatrick before.

When Chief Inspector Marcus Charles of Scotland Yard, Kate’s presumptive love, asks her to meet him at the Hotel Metropole, it’s to identify a man known to Kate who has been found by a chambermaid, dead in bed and not from natural causes. Everett Runcie, a banker facing ruin and disgrace by devious dealings faced divorce from his American heiress wife, tired of his infidelities. But Everett Runcie had not been alone when he checked into the hotel, so who, was his companion?

Could these seemingly unrelated events be connected? As she investigates, Kate recalls an accidental shooting at the start of the grouse season a few weeks back, and begins to wonder if there could be a tie to these cases. The more she delves, the more convoluted and sinister do matters appear. Can Kate untangle the complex threads and get to the truth?

Cleverly plotted, the story is told by Kate in the first person, and by third person narratives from Kate’s assistant Sykes and Deirdre Fitzpatrick. Brody weaves an intriguing set of events for the reader to unravel, which also highlights the difficult divorce laws of the time. The period details add much to the texture of this satisfying entry in the series. Don’t miss this entertaining series if you haven’t found Brody yet.

Holiday Goodies #2 Wednesday, Dec 18 2013 

Auntie M gave you a great listing last time of good books for gifts for readers. Now she’s going to give you a huge compendium of wonderful reads in different categories for those last minute gifts. And then take off between Christmas and New Year’s 🙂 To all a good night and a wonderful holiday season. Here are some great ideas for gifting and don’t forget to gift yourself in the process!

For fans of the Tried and True Series:

crossVal McDermid is one of Auntie M’s favorite authors. Every stand alone, each series, all of the books shine with the craft of a wordsmith who understands people and manages to add complex plots that keep your interest and your mind reeling.

Cross and Burn is the latest in the Tony Hill-Carol Jordan series and you will be shocked and surprised at how she handles the complicated rift in their relationship.

The effects of the last case (The Retribution) has left the two estranged and both blame Tony for the havoc a sick killer brought into Carol’s life. She’s been on extended leave, with no one seeing her for the past three months.

He’s been cut from his service to the police and is working full time at a nearby psych hospital and living on a long boat.

What neither expects is a killer with a penchant for murdering women, and how that case will bring a connection neither Hill or Jordan can ignore. As Paula McIntyre works to adapt to her new position and investigates what soon becomes a series of murders, one thing soon become clear: all the women bear a disturbing resemblance to Carol Jordan.

And then the unthinkable happens when the evidence points to Tony Hill and he finds himself behind bars.

This one will keep you turning pages as all of McDermid’s do and you won’t want it to end but will race to find the conclusion anyway. Somehow McDermid always manages to keep her stories fresh and her ideas intriguing. Highly recommended.

Julia Spencer-Fleming kept fans waiting for the next in her series featuring the Episcopal priest Clare Fergusson and her police chief, Russ Van Alstyne. evil-days-new-lg

Through the Evil Days finds the newly married couple finally stealing away for a honeymoon. With Clare’s pregnancy evidently preceding their marriage, she faces trouble with her diocese for conduct unbecoming a priest.

Although there is an arson case on board, Russ leaves the case to his deputies to take Clare for a week of ice fishing in a lakeside cabin in the Adirondack’s he’s hoping she will agree they should buy.

Running between the couple is the difficulty Russ is having with the idea of Clare’s pregnancy, unplanned and unanticipated after agreeing they would not have children; but now a fact she is willing to accept and which threatens to drive a wedge between the couple.

Trouble comes early in the form of a suspected kidnapping in their vacation neighborhood whose tendrils reach into the arson case.

A snowstorm blankets the area and makes travel impossible, with frigid weather an added element to fight besides the meth heads whose hideout they stumble across.

With officers Hadley Knox and Kevin Flynn struggling to work out the case in the midst of their own relationship issues, there’s plenty of trouble to go around.

Soon the trouble comes too close to their cabin and Russ and Clare will be fighting for not only their own lives, but for that of their unborn child.

The-Ravens-EyeBarry Maitland’s Brock and Kolla series returns with his twelfth entry, The Raven’s Eye.

While Brock as DCI must wrestle with budget cuts and a new Commander at work, DI Kathy Kolla’s instincts kick in when she’s called to investigate what appears to be an accidental death on a narrow boat.

Vicky Hawks lived on the houseboat and is found by one of her neighbors, the apparent victim of carbon monoxide poisoning. The poor ventilation system on the boat supports that and nothing at the crime scene seems out of sort.

Kathy’s patience will be tested as she teases out information about the dead woman from those around her.

There will be doctors and scientists and a case of wrong identity as Kathy follows a trail that keeps doubling back on her. Who was Vicky Hawks and why would anyone have wanted her dead?

This one is well-plotted with dead ends that keep frustrating Kathy as much as the budget cutbacks that ruin Brock’s day. And when it appears Vicky’s death may be related to a previous murder, they know they are facing a shrewd killer who will stop at nothing to keep the status quo.

What adds a deep layer to this one is the world if surveillance and how it can be used to help and to hinder. A fine and shrewd mystery.

Other series winners: M. R. Hall’s Coroner Jenny Cooper returns in The Chosen Dead. Finished with therapy for the debilitating panic attacks she’s had for years, Jenny is trying to salvage her relationship with her son, Ross, and her lover, Michael. Somehow the death of an Arizona research scientist and his Russian counterpart seeking asylum become part of Jenny’s case when a young man leaves his toddler son and leaps to his death off a traffic bridge onto the highway. The dead man’s wife insists her husband would never commit suicide–and Jenny finds herself agreeing.

Inger Ash Wolfe’s A Door in the River brings back the unusual detective Hazel Micallef in the Canadian town of Port Dundas. Struggling with a new commanding officer as the policing is being rearranged, disturbed by her mother Emily’s apparent depression, the death of friend Henry Wiest of a heart attack after a bee sting hits her hard. But what was Henry doing near Queesik Bay outside a smoke shop, because Henry didn’t smoke? What follows is a disturbing tale of human trafficking and a traitor in a most unlikely place.

Alison Bruce brings DC Gary Goodhew and Cambridge to life in The Silence, when a series of  suicides appear to Gary to be much more than they seem on the surface. To make matters worse, one of the deaths is related to an earlier case of his, a gruesome death he’s never forgotten. And then there’s the subject of is inheritance and how he is or is not handling that.

Aline Templeton’s DI Marjory Fleming is a great character, a Scottish detective inspector married to a sheep farmer. She’s back in rare form in Evil for Evil, when murder strikes the little village of Innellan, perched on the Fleet Ba towards a series of small islands. Old scores to settle, soldiers with past secrets and even dead babies all come into play in this satisfying addition to the series.

And don’t forget Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell) in her book-within-a-book, The Child’s Child, a complex story of siblings, friendship and cultural history from the master of psychological suspense.

For something New and Different:

Carla Norton takes her experience working on a real 1977 kidnapping case, where the victim was held for seven years, and uses it to bring a most unusual 1728neggers6850new protagonist to the page with a high degree of authenticity in The Edge of Normal.

Twenty-two year-old Reeve LeClaire is making a life for herself in San Francisco, working part-time, and seeing psychiatrist Ezra Lerner. Dr. Lerner is an expert on captivity syndromes and has slowly gained Reeve’s trust after her own harrowing experience, which is parsed out in an intriguing manner.

Working as a waitress, she is living in her own apartment and trying to feel normal while repairing her relationship with her family.

Then kidnapped teenager Tilly Cavanaugh is rescued after being locked in a basement for over a year. Tilly asks to speak with Reeve about her own experience and survival, and Lerner feels it may help Reeve to be of help to another teen and asks her consider it.

With the confessed kidnapper in custody, there should be little threat to Reeve. But Tilly is hiding a secret, one she will only share with Reeve. And soon it appears there are at least two other teens who have gone missing in similar circumstances in the past two years. Could either of them still be alive?

Soon Reeve is doing a bit of investigating on her own, assisted by the liaison assigned to Tilly, Deputy Nick Hudson, who works with both the district attorney’s office and the county sheriff’s department.

What they can’t know is that someone with the perfect cover is monitoring her every move, and Reeve is in more danger than she could ever anticipate.

This is a chilling thriller which becomes quickly engrossing as much as it gives insight into kidnap victims. The best aspect is Reeve’s refusal to see herself as a victim, and one can only hope she will reappear in a sequel.

TheRedQueenDies_CoverIn the not-too-distant future of 2019, The Red Queen Dies is the newest novel by author and criminal justice professor Frankie Y. Bailey.

In an all-too believable scenario. she takes a hard look at criminal law and what police work will become, set during a time when there is a drug available that will allow victims of brutal crimes to erase the memory of their attacks. “Lullaby” also takes away evidence as witnesses lose these important points of recall.

This happens to Detective Hannah McCabe, working in Albany, and hits home when a witness is given by the drug. With a killer on the loose, she needs all the witnesses she can find.

Then the killer’s third victim becomes actress Vivian Jessup, nicknamed the Red Queen for her hair color and for her dedication to Alice in Wonderland. Her extensive collection of Lewis Carroll and Wonderland memorabilia is legendary.

Is The Red Queen’s death connected to the first two? Or is there a savvy killer out there trying to tag his murder onto the other two.

Written with a wry sense of humor from Hannah, Bailey succeeds in showing the heat of an Albany September just out of reach of today.

Readers who appreciate a highly original approach will appreciate this fast-paced mystery featuring a biracial detective from a literary family who decides crime is her game.

For Historical Fans:

Award-winner Catriona McPerson brings back aristocratic-turned-detective Dandy Gilver with Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses. 9Dandy781250030009.340x340-75

For fans of , this series set in 1920’s Scotland continues to charm with the cases of Gilver and Osborne.

This time Dandy responds to the frantic call from an old friend, one of three sisters she has fond memories of, and soon finds herself traveling to a girls school where one of the sisters, Fleur, has been teaching.  It seems teachers are disappearing at an alarming rate.

Soon Dandy finds herself at St. Columba’s in the seaside town of Portpatrick, where Fleur is less than pleased to see her old friend.

It seems Fleur is convinced she’s responsible for four or even five  deaths and it’s up to Dandy and Osborne to get to the bottom of such nonsense.

There are murders and kidnappings and enough secrets to keep the coziest person happy.

This pleasing series has been optioned for television by the BBC, where it will no doubt find a popular home.

dunnCarola Dunn follows  A Colourful Death in her Cornish mystery series with the third installment The Valley of the Shadow.

It’s sometime in the 1960’s or 70’s, before the advent of computer or mobile phones, and Port Mabyn may be a fictional village but the rest of Cornwall as Dunn describes it is real and lovely.

Series regular Eleanor Trewynn has retired in her widowhood after being a world traveler to be near her niece Megan Pencarrow, a detective sergeant with the local police.

But Eleanor is by no means a shy or retiring widow and in the past has helped do more than her fair share of investigating, aided by her dog, Teazle. In this volume, out along the seaside cliffs for a walk with Teazle and her neighbor, artist Nick Gresham, they spot a half-drowned Indian man afloat in the water.

With no identification, saved from the brink of death, the young man is taken to the hospital while Eleanor and Megan try to find out who he is and how he came to in the water in their remote area of Cornwall.

There will be talk of Immigration, of smugglers and caves, of family needing to be rescued, and Eleanor and Megan will be in the thick of it.

The duo Charles Todd became known for the Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries, but they’ve had equal success with the Bess Crawford mysteries and return with 978Todd0062237170_p0_v2_s260x420A Question of Honor. English nurse Bess manages to find herself in the middle of a criminal investigation in the series which vividly describes the horrors of war.

The time is near the end of WWI and Bess is brought back to memories her childhood in India, where her colonel father was stationed. Despite her happy memories, the dark cloud of that time was the murder of five people by an officer from her father’s regiment who was never brought to trial.

It has remained an issue for Bess and her family because her father had trained this man.

Now tending to the wounded in France, Bess learned from a dying Indian sergeant that this murderer, Lieutenant Wade is alive and indeed, serving at the front.

She’s shocked and determined to find out how he had escaped–and what had driven him in the first place to commit murder when her beloved father had placed such faith in the man.

The bulk of the book concerns Bess taking leave to investigate Wade, and she’s surprised by what she learns from different witnesses.

It will take all of her wiles and intelligence to piece together the reality of the murders from years ago, and she will end up enlisting her mother and father in a fascinating twisted ending that will involve Rudyard Kipling.

97803tremayne12658625Going back to Ireland AD 670, Peter Tremayne has a huge following with his series featuring Fidelmma of Cashel.

This time Fidelma’s brother enlists her aid investigating the murder of a nobleman in The Seventh Trumpet.

For those unfamiliar with the series, the protagonist is not only the sister of a king, but a dailaigh, an advocate of the Brehon Law Courts.

With the help of her companion Eadulf, they try to find out if the murder could be tied to a violent wave running through the western lands.

In those parts a fanatical figure claims to have been summoned by the seventh angel with the express desire to remove those impure of faith.

Despite the number of bodies that begin to pile up, it remains to be seen how they are connected, and why in the midst of this turmoil, an abbot would turn his monastery into a fortress.

When Fidelma becomes abducated, it will be up to Eadult to rescue her while finishing their work and solving the mystery surrounding the deaths.

Tremayne does a fine job of describing a time period so remote to today’s reader, with authenticity and ties to the history of the time.

For Cozy Fans:

Mary Daheim’s newest Bed and Breakfast mystery, Gone with the Win, turns a different spin when Judith McMonigle Flynn actually gets her husband Joe to help in her investigation.This is the 28th in the long-running series and this time when Judith books a reservation for a Mary Smith from New York City, mayhem is sure to follow. And it does, in the form of a cold case “Mary” is determined Judith can help her solve.

The first in a new series, Rosemary and Crime debuts Gail Oust’s charming southern cozy, featuring amateur sleuth Piper Prescott, who owns a spice shop in Georgia’s small town of Brandywine Creek. Divorced and determined to bloom where she’s planted herself, Piper is a Yankee who’s pursuing her dream of owning her own business. But the grand opening takes a dramatic turn when the chef doing a cooking demo is stabbed and Piper finds herself the chief suspect. Filled with humor and a lot of sass, readers will get a kick out of Piper and her outspoken friend Reba Mae Johnson.

For Young Adult Readers:

John Grisham’s Theodore Boone: The Activist stars a 13 year-old whose history includes kidnapping and murder.   This is the fourth in the series starring the young

lawyer whose books can be read by the entire family.

Theo is a loyal friend to Hardie Quinn and gets justifiably upset when he learns the Quinn family home is about to be bulldozed for a bypass. This will affect other homes and businesses and even a school that lie in the path of the proposed bypass.

It’s tough for Theo to explain to Hardie that the law is not on his friend’s side and there’s not much that can be done.

Despite this, Theo joins in the campaign organized to stop the bypass and that’s when things gets really interesting. Theo finds corruption, but he’s learned it in an illegal way. How can he keep the developers from going ahead with his plan while exposing the corruption without breaking the law himself.

Any in this series provide thoughtful, engaging stories for young readers in the tween category.



Auntie M has decided to give readers a holiday gift: here are selections for you to consider that would make great gift-giving for the readers on your list. And don’t forget to include yourself!

First up is Robin Burcell’s third Sydney Fitzgerald thriller, The Dark Hour, a series featuring the FBI-trained forensic artist whose skills go far beyond her artistic ability.images

Right on the heels on the murder of a prominent Senator, Sydney finds herself, against her better judgment, on the way to Amsterdam to do a forensic drawing of a suspect seen by the victim’s niece near the site of her uncle’s murder. When the niece is murdered just as Sydney makes a harrowing escape, her drawing sets off a train of events that have heads turning everywhere from Washington to Europe and back. There’s every acronym in the book showing up, too,  as the CIA, FBI, ATLAS and others all vie for answers when threats of biological warfare become apparent.

Making Sydney’s job more difficult is the realization that her drawing is the exact likeness of the supposed-dead wife of the agent she’s been attracted in previous books. Griffin’s wife died in an explosion–or has she become a double agent and faked her down death?

There’s plenty of action here as Burcell jumps between cities, including trips to France and the Amazon, and enough fast-paced suspense to keep those pages turning.


Following in the thriller genre is Laurence O’Bryan’s first in a series, The Istanbul Puzzle.

Sean Ryan is living in London, still grieving over the death of his beloved wife, Irene, when he receives a call that finds him traveling to Istanbul to identify the body of his colleague and friend, Alek Zegliwski.

He is shocked to find Alek has been beheaded, his body found near the sacred archeological site of Hagia Sophia where Alek had been monitoring and photographing ancient tesserae, tiny cubes that make up the beautiful mosaic that decorate the site.

The hunt begins with Sean and British diplomat Isabel Sharp, Alek’s liason officer from the British consulate, searching for Alek’s assassin. Aided by Peter Fitzgerald from the Consulate, the two are soon running from danger. But is Peter the friend he appears to be? A missing mosaic, which may provide the link between pagan gods and Christianity becomes a clue; then a lethal virus is unleashed on the city and the stakes are raised as the pace races along and Sean and Isabel face death and betrayal.

Watch for O’Bryan’s sequel, The Jerusalem Puzzle, which follows Sean and Isabel’s adventures,  due early next year.

If Wall Street and finance get your pulse racing as much as espionage does, you’ll want to look for James Grippando’s Need You Now. 183349165

Set against the backdrop of investment banking, Grippando’s story could be ripped from the headlines of Ponzi schemes, SEC fraud, and interconnected groups who have no business being in business together.

When the craft-master of a $60 billion dollar Ponzi scheme commits suicide, his death means secrets remain. Into this mess steps Patrick Lloyd, the advisor for Wall Street of the world’s largest Swiss bank.

Abe Cushman’s leap out of a window starts a chain of events with repercussions felt especially keenly by Patrick, whose girlfriend, Lilly, had been fired from the Singapore branch of the bank. Despite claiming she knew nothing about the Cushman scheme, the FBI comes into the mix with the discovery of a Treasury memo identifying her involvement.

After escalating incidents, FBI agent Andie Henning is tasked with insuring Patrick’s safety as he follows where the money trail takes him. And then Lilly disappears, and Patrick’s silent identity becomes an issue.

Grippando brings the reader inside the minds of those who try to defraud the government in a realistic way. There will be kidnappings, murder, ties to gun runners and more in this complex thriller that will have you wondering who in the financial world is beyond reproach and if you should really trust that mild-mannered financial advisor with your assets.

Changing gears to more light-hearted fare, look for the delightful, long-running cozy series featuring feline P. I. Joe Grey from Shirley Rousseau Murphy, with Cat Telling Tales.

The bright seaside village of Molena Point has been hit hard by the economic downturn, bringing a spate of foreclosures, causing many residents to abandon their family pets.


While feline P. I. Joe Grey’s humans, Ryan and Clyde Damen, try to care for the starving cats, a fire leaves a twelve-year-old boy homeless. The body of his alcoholic guardian is discovered in the smoldering ruins, causing Joe to wonder if escape was really as impossible as it seems for the elderly woman, or if this is a case of murder.

Then Debbie Kraft descends uninvited on the Damens’ home with her two children. Her ex-husband has left her without funds and nowhere else to go.

But when Joe learns that the victim of the fire was Debbie’s estranged mother, and that Debbie is not broke at all but carrying plenty of cash, his fur is on end with suspicion.

As Debbie’s abandoned tomcat follows her all the way down the coast from Oregon with his own clues to add to the mix, Joe learns that Debbie’s ex-husband may be involved in a number of intricate real estate scams, and hisi sales partner may be missing.

Then while Joe and his pals prowl through the dead woman’s house, they discover that her reclusive neighbor has disappeared as well.

But it’s not until Debbie’s tomcat arrives that Joe and his feline detective pals find the biggest clue of all: a grave that the cops have missed.

The pieces of the puzzle begin to come together, with help from Joe’s feline friends, who are exceptionally precocious.  And there’s a hint of romance for Joe’s tortoiseshell friend, Kit.

Perfect for the holidays is the newest installment in this feline series, Cat Bearing Gifts, the 18th in the series.       186148889

Attractive divorcee Kate Osborne returns to California with a fairy-tale story to explain her sudden wealth. Joe Grey’s good friend, Kit, and her humans, Lucinda and Pedric Greenlaw have spent a wonderful shopping trip with Kate, piling up the backseat of their car with treasures Kit has helped them glean to redecorate their Molena Point home.

Then the unthinkable happens: a truck and pickup jockey for position on a narrow mountain road and end up causing a horrific accident that involves the Greenlaw’s Lincoln. Pedric and Lucinda have injuries, but Pedric is able to call for help.

But the situation dramatically worsens when two men from the pickup assault Kit’s humans and drive away in the Greenlaw’s battered but still drive-able Lincoln, carrying with them their own stash of money that had been hidden in the pickup.

What the men don’t know is that hidden inside the Lincoln’s door panels are a treasure trove Kate has given the couple. The Greenlaws are rescued by paramedics but Kit hides in the hills and waits to be rescued by her Molena Point friends–that’s if she doesn’t get eaten by hungry coyotes first.

Back at home, Joe Grey finds two men hiding in an abandoned stone cottage, along with the smell of mildewed money and blood.  His friend, the yellow tomcat Misto, unearths an old photograph of a child who lived fifty years ago.

What can the connection be? And what ties in these incidents with the injuries to the Greenlaws and the theft of their car and money? Misto’s memories will help as Joe works hard to unearth a murderer. Delightful and filled with humor, the reader sees the world from the cat’s point of view. These are highly readable for mystery lovers, whether you are a cat lover or not.


For fans of historical mysteries, the holiday tale by the mother and son writing team known as Charles Todd offers The Walnut Tree, set in 1914 France and England at the start of WWI.

Lady Elspeth Douglas is the daughter of a Highland aristocrat who is visiting her best friend from school, the very pregnant Madeleine. Elspeth is helping her friend await the birth of her first child while she fights her growing boredom. Attracted for many years to Madeleine’s brother, Alain,  their time together results in her promise to marry him–just as the war breaks out and she tries to return to England.

Finding herself stranded in Calais, Elspeth makes herself useful by carrying water to the soldiers near the Front, which nearly results in her getting herself killed when the enemy starts to bomb her position.

Captain Peter Gilchrist saves her, and she finds herself oddly drawn to the leader. Before she can learn more about him and thank him for saving her, they are separated and she returns to London, but remains haunted by the horrors of war she saw firsthand in France.

Always a headstrong girl, bristling against the firm and class conscious restraints of her guardian, her cousin Kenneth, she enrolls in a nursing course, making friends and sharing a flat with fellow nurse Bess Crawford. But her cousin has not given his consent for her to become a nurse, a profession he feels is beneath her class and his notions of what is appropriate for a woman.

Determined to return to the battlefields to do her part, and to find Peter, Elspeth is torn about her promise to Alain, recognizing her heart belongs to Peter. Then Alain goes missing before she can set things right with him, and Peter is seriously wounded.

Charles Todd’s twelve books in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series have shown the duo to be experts with this time period. With its romantic side fully developed, the realism of war is well represented in this heartwarming holiday tale. A must for Downton Abbey fans.

Advancing a bit into the period between the wars, Jacqueline Winspear returns with her newest in the ninth Maisie Dobbs series, Elegy For Eddie.                                    elegyforeddie

Maisie arrives at her Lambeth office one day to find a group of costermongers she knows from her fathers, there to ask for her help. The newest in the series follows private investigators Maisie’s quest to discover whether or not a childhood acquaintance, Eddie, a gentle horse trainer, was murdered.

Police have written off Eddie’s death at a paper factory as an unfortunate accident. These protective friends of Eddie’s don’t accept that verdict, and once Maisie starts to investigate, it becomes obvious that there are more powerful people involved in Eddie’s death. The gentle man, who had a gift for “calming ” horses, surely couldn’t have enemies–or could he?
Maisie’s own sense of right and wrong will be questioned, even as she struggles with her private life and her class-breaking romance with her former employer’s son, James Compton.

She will turn up people from Eddie’s past and seek out his interest in flying machines. And she soon must accept that there are others with a greater understanding of national security that must be protected and that reach up to Churchill himself, even as James and places like America and Canada enter their conversations.

Maisie’s employees are other eyes for the struggles of the era: her trusted assistant, family man Billy Beale, and her part-time secretary, Sandra, a recent widow, both beset with the financial difficulties of the time.

Compelling and haunting, Winspear expertly captures the emotion of the period and the people still healing from the first war and yet balanced on the brink of the next.

Last, but certainly not least, readers should check out the new line of paperback mysteries by HarperCollins called Bourbon Street.

They are starting with the reissue of the four Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries featuring Harriet Vane by Dorothy L. Sayers, one of Britain’s foremost mystery novelists, first published in the 1930’s and set in that tine period.


Strong Poison opens the set and introduces mystery novelist Harriet Van to Lord Peter. When her fiance’ dies in the same manner of poisoning as described in one of her novels, it looks like Harriet is off to the gallows. But Lord Peter is determined to find the real murderer and clear this intelligent woman who intrigues him.

Have His Carcase starts off with Harriet seeking peace and solace on a deserted beach, until her idyll is cut short when she stumbles on the body of a man whose throat has been cut. Still stinging from her past, Harriet tries to shrug off Lord Peter’s growing infatuation for her, but doesn’t resist his aid in pursing the murderer.

Gaudy Night takes Harriet to her Oxford reunion. Mulling over her growing attraction to Lord Peter with great dismay, a series of bizarre pranks make her time there less fond than she’d hoped. Burnt effigies lead to poison-pen letters, including one to Harriet remarking on her past brush with poison. Now firmly a detecting couple, Harriet and Lord Peter are challenged to get to the bottom of the malice with scant clues to help them.

Busman’s Honeymoon ends the series, a delightful way for this most-intelligent couple to appear. Finally succumbing to his love, Harriet marries Lord Peter and becomes Lady Peter in a wedding uniquely her own. Navigating the demands and challenges of her new title and status, their honeymoon begins with a wallop when the former owner of their new country home is found dead in their cellar. Their romantic country stay becomes their most baffling case yet.

These new editions have smart covers featuring period photography and are accompanied by an introduction by mystery giant Elizabeth George. The entire set for the holidays would make any mystery lover glow.