Celticlady's Reading Room

I love books of any type, ebooks, print in a variety of genres. I review and have been since 2009...

Agatha Christie Murder Mystery!

Death in a Desert Land - Andrew Wilson

Agatha Christie is tasked, by letter, to what was then called Persia, now Baghdad, to investigate the death of Gertrude Bell. Her death was determined to be suicide. Gertrude was an English writer, traveler, political officer, administrator, and archaeologist. She played a major role in establishing and helping administer the modern state of Iraq, a very well respected woman in the Middle East. Gertrude felt that she was being followed and her life in danger so whether she committed suicide or was murdered has never been determined. 

She was also in competition with another archeologist, Mrs. Woolley. Katharine who had an official position as an illustrator for the excavation at Ur. Katherine's first husband committed suicide, many speculate it was because Katherine suffered from Complete androgen insensitivity syndrome, which meant that she could not have children. 

In Death in a Desert has Agatha trying to figure out why Gertrude died finds herself in a totally separate murder mystery. Agatha befriends Mrs.Wooley and while Mrs.Wooley is brilliant and temperamental Agatha is still able to have empathy for her. A young girl gets into an argument with Mrs.Wooley and ends up dead. Mrs. Wooley is leaning over the body of the young women and of course, Mrs. Wooley becomes a suspect and is locked into her room. When the investigators are able to get there, they find that there is a young man who says he killed Sarah Archer. 

Both suspects are kept locked in their rooms until the police can figure out who the true killer is. Agatha visits her in her room and begins to suspect Katherine's behavior to not be normal. Could she have been poisoned? There are substances that could be taken that would change a person's personality and that would explain a lot of things

There are a lot of well-fleshed characters that make this story very believable. I did not know until the end of the book, that this novel was based on the real lives of Gertrude Bell and Mrs.Wooley and her husband Leonard, and that the murder mystery was interwoven with the real events of these people. This is the first book I have read in this series and I think that I will go back and start from the beginning! A worthwhile read, a clean mystery but still a suspenseful who dun it. I really enjoyed the book and read it in a few sittings!

Bone Deep  - Sandra Ireland

Bone Deep is a novel that is a contemporary retelling of a Scottish legend of two sisters who were often by an ancient water mill that now is the home of Mac, a retired academic and writer. These sister's had a sibling rivalry that turned deadly. Mac is working on a new collection of folktales that include these sisters. Mac is a widow and her son wants her to live in an assisted living type place but she refuses.

Mac is having frequent bouts of memory loss and wants to complete her work so she hires a young woman, Lucie, to help her type up her notes and other duties. She moves into the Miller's Cottage. Lucie left home, her mother actually threw her out after she realized that Lucie was having an affair with her sister's fiance. So she just wanted to earn a living and to try to get past all of this. So dealing with Mac seems to be the way to do this.

The story is told in the point of views of Lucie and Mac. We learn more about Lucie and the affair and also Mac and the old mill and her deceased husband and how he died plus the story of the sisters. There are secrets, secrets and more secrets from these two women and it is how they come to terms with these secrets that make the story. This book is dark at times, gothic kind of read that should appeal to anyone who loves this genre. 

I read some reviews that said it started out slow, I didn't feel that way. I just felt that it was a bit lengthy getting into the story but that was ok because it set up the story to its satisfying but not expected conclusion. Lots of twisty turns but that is what makes a great story right? The ending blew me away! Never saw it coming. Great psychological thriller! I enjoyed the book immensely!

The Impaler's Wife - Autumn Bardot
Vlad III Dracula, known as Vlad the Impaler was the second son of Vlad Dracul, who became the ruler of Wallachia in 1436. Vlad and his younger brother, Radu, were held as hostages in the Ottoman Empire in 1442 to secure their father's loyalty. The relationship between Vlad and Radu deteriorated as Radu became Islam and a friend of Mehmed II, ruler of the Ottoman Empire. Vlad's father and eldest brother, Mircea, were murdered after John Hunyadi, regent-governor of Hungary, invaded Wallachia in 1447. Vlad was held in captivity in Visegrád from 1463 to 1475. The stories of his cruelty began to spread from Germany during that time. Whether they were true or how bad he was is pure speculation. I guess you have to remember that it was in medieval times and cruelty was normal for the time. 
His second wife was Ilona Szilagy, the main character in the book was a cousin to  King Matthias Corvinus, king of Bohemia, Hungary, and Croatia. Vlad is determined to marry into the Szilagy family. Vlad and Ilona had a tumultuous relationship and marriage. They had two children, Vladut and Nicolae. Vlad seized Wallachia in late 1476 but was soon murdered, decapitated. This was the ending of the book, I would like to see a sequel because it appears that there is a lot more to tell of Ilona. 
The story had a lot of war, Vlad was definitely a warrior, sex, murders, and court intrigues. The book went back and forth from when Vlad was young to the present day and his marriage to Ilona. I knew the stories of Vlad Tepes, the Impaler, but had never read much about him. There are a lot of characters in the book, lots with names that I could not pronounce. That did not stop me from enjoying the story thoroughly. Of course, there are a lot of stories about Dracula related to vampirism, those were the stories I knew about, not Vlad the person. I loved Bardot's writing, even though there was a lot of war scenes, she mixed in the daily lives of Vlad and Ilona. She put a personal touch to Vlad and Ilona, the book did not read like a history book like some historical fiction books do.  I think that I would love to read more about Ilona. If you like historical fiction and want to read about the love between Vlad and Ilona then this book is for you. I highly recommend it! 


A haunting story!

The Missing Years - Lexie Elliott

Ailsa Carter is a 30 something journalist, who inherits the Scottish manor where she was born after her mother dies. She is always wondering what happened to her father. The kicker is she only gets half the house and the other half is left to her father, so she must find out what happened to her father 27 years ago.


"My father is happily living in Australia with a lady called Sarah or Susan. They have a handful of charming children with the exception of the last, who even in his early twenties is something of a handful (they call him their "late bloomer") though of course, my father struggles endlessly with thoughts of the child he left behind. But he's come too far to be able to see a way back to her." 


Statements like the one above are at the beginning of every chapter, I realized after I finished the book that these were just things that Ailsa was imagining happened to her father. She moves into the manse temporarily, the locals are not very friendly to her, her family has been the 'talk' of the towns since her father disappeared. Threatening notes and dead animals appear on her doorstep and live animals won't come onto the grounds past the gate. 


This book has some interesting and sinister characters, undertones of supernatural make this a story worth reading. I love the writing style, including the statements at the beginning of each chapter, it made her father seem like a real person and had me curious. So what did happen to Ailsa's father and what is going on with the 'Manse"? Will Ailsa be able to overcome her issues both personally and with her father? I encourage you to pick up a copy of this amazing book! Now I have to read The French Girl!

Normal People - Sally Rooney

I apologize to the author but I could not read this book. I found it rather boring. I will be donating the book to my local library. 

Paranoid - Lisa Jackson

Paranoid by Lisa Jackson is the story of Rachel Gaston, who lives in Edgewater Oregon with her son and daughter. She is divorced from Detective Cade Ryder but they do have an amicable relationship if only for the kids. 
Twenty years ago, Rachel along with some classmates was in an abandoned fish factory with pellet air guns when hers was replaced with a real gun, unbeknownst to her. When someone jumps out she panics and shoots, finds out that the person she shot was her half brother Luke. 
Despite counseling Rachel still feels that it was her fault that her brother is dead and blames herself after all of these years. A high school reunion is being planned, she feels that there are objects being moved in her house, whiffs of cologne and cigarette smoke is in the air. She is being tailed and feels that someone is watching her home.
Now that there are classmates being murdered her paranoia increases. 
Her ex knows that Rachel has issues but he is not sure whether to believe her or not as to her paranoia. Not only that, her daughter has been sneaking out at night to be with a guy whom Rachel is not fond of. So all of these things come to a horrifying conclusion that I did not see coming.
I had not read a Lisa Jackson novel in quite a few years and I am not sure why I haven't as I do remember enjoying them. This one was no exception. This book is character driven and is believable. I love the writing as it was pretty suspenseful and I did not see the ending coming but I like to think that the ending is such that there is another book coming with the same characters.
I think that if you enjoy a good psychological thriller that you can't go wrong with the novel. 

Gold Digger, The Remarkable Baby Doe Tabor - Rebecca Rosenberg

Elizabeth McCourt Tabor better known as Baby Doe was a woman who came from poverty. She married Harvey Doe but later divorced him for a variety of reasons including not providing a living and abandonment. She was from Oshkosh, Wisconsin but moved with Harvey to Leadville Colorado.

She met Horace Tabor, mining millionaire, and owner of Leadville's Matchless Mine. They fell in love and Horace tried to divorce his wife, Augusta of 25 years who denied him the divorce. He obtained a divorce in a different jurisdiction and married Baby Doe but was it legal? Because of their dalliance, divorces and subsequent marriage they were shunned by society.

They had two children but Baby Doe, still shunned by society but still donated money to charities. The Tabor's were rich in silver and with the repeal of the Silver Act, Horace lost his fortune and had to take a job as postmaster in Denver in 1898. Baby Doe eventually had to take menial jobs to survive and eventually died supposedly as a 'madwoman'.

I had read in the past a bit about Baby Doe and Horace and found the story fascinating. A story of a woman who goes from rags to riches and back to rags again. A strong woman who takes on her role as a woman who would work in the mines, as a homewrecker by falling in love with a married man and being called a gold digger. She is a legend among the women of the mining west. I always love reading a story of strong women and I read this book in two sittings. Fascinating story, I think if you love a fast-paced, character-driven, based on real people, then go get a copy of this book! I highly recommend it!

Exceptional Series

A Torch in His Heart  - Anna Belfrage
Smoke in Her Eyes is the second in Anna Belfrage's The Wanderer series. Continuing the story from A Torch in His Heart, Jason, and Helle, after lifetimes of living, dying and looking and finding each other are finally able to have a life. Well with an exception, Sam Woolf. Sam is still determined to get his hands on Helle and make her his own. He is not nice about it either, he has his own henchmen and is able to possess and manipulate people's minds. It is a battle of wills between the three of them. 
This book has less of the time travel aspect but it is is still there in the fact that Jason and Helle have lived many lives. It is more about the love that they share. This book is pretty steamy and at times violent, well Woolf is involved so that explains that. I loved the book, as I do all of Anna's works. I look forward to reading more about Jason and Helle, is Sam dead? I would like to think he is but then there would be no more story. 
Anna writes in such a way that you can't help but get drawn into the story. The sex scenes are done tastefully and the supporting characters are well written. This series is sure to be one to please, I look forward to reading the third novel in the series, Fires in the Skies. Anna is also the author of The Graham saga, a historical time slip series and The Kings Greatest Enemy, all wonderful series. If you love any of these types of stories, definitely give them a try. You will fall in love with this author, I have and highly recommend Smoke in Her Eyes.

Great Procedural

Shades of Justice (Detective Madison Knight series #9) - Carolyn Arnold
Shades of Justice by Carolyn Arnold #9 of the Detective Madison Knight series is not the first I have read in the series, not sure how many. That said, it can be read like a stand-alone novel. I promise!
A woman and a man are found dead at the bottom of a pool, completely naked, bullets in their heads. The woman is quickly identified but the man's identity is unknown. She is Lorene Malone, a rich woman with secrets. Why is a woman murdered with a man other than her husband? Detective Madison Knight along with her partner Detective Terry Grant team up again to solve this murder. 
There is a slew of suspects, from family members to acquaintances, leaves Madison at odds with her Sergeant as Steve Malone, wife of the murdered woman is a huge contributor to the police department of the city Stiles, where the woman lived. So that can make it difficult in trying to figure out and eliminate the many suspects and solve the murders in a professional way.
On a side story, Madison is to be a maid of honor to her best friend, Cynthia, a medical examiner on the case, which along with the case consumes her life including maintaining a relationship with her life partner Troy. There is also an internal investigation into corrupt cops which I am sure will be told in future books as it is never really solved in Shades of Justice. So needless to say there is a lot of things going on, so with long days and sleepless nights, can she move on with the investigation?
I love a strong woman protagonist and Madison is right up there as a woman who knows what she wants and is not easily intimidated. Since she is at odds at times with her Sergeant, she perseveres and with the help of her partner Terry and the understanding of her love Troy, she is able to get to the bottom of this murder and get to the wedding on time also! 
I have read and reviewed a number of Carolyn Arnold novels and liked them and this one was also one I want to read more of the series. Carolyn Arnold is the only author with "POLICE PROCEDURALS RESPECTED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT™" Now what does that tell me? Well, it tells me that she knows her stuff!!  I enjoyed the book and will be reading more by this author.
I received this book through Beck Valley Books Book Tours, I have volunteered to share my review and all the opinions are 100% my own.
Murder Knocks Twice - Susanna Calkins

Murder Knocks Twice is a new series by Susanna Calkin that takes place in 1929 Chicago during prohibition. We see Gina Ricci, the main character, start a new job as a cigarette girl in a speakeasy, replacing a girl who was murdered. 


We meet a myriad of characters that work at the speakeasy, The Third Door owned by Signora Castallazzo, the customers, ie socialites finding some fun, ex-servicemen playing poker in a back room. Prohibition cocktails and mentions of gangsters such as Al Capone and there is also a mention of the St.Valentine's Day Massacre and the rise of organized crime. 


I have not read much about 1929 Chicago other than the stock market crash. What does a cigarette girl do, she wears this box around her neck and goes around the speakeasy selling cigarettes and cigars, she also waits tables as needed. That is what Gina started doing but she also wants to be a photographer. The piano player, Marty is murdered and Gina comes upon the scene just as Marty is dying. Gina had learned that she and Marty were cousins on her mother's side so this murder was personal.


Gina finds herself right smack dab in the middle of trying to figure out who and why Marty was murdered. With a camera and a roll of film, that she learns how to develop, may give her answers. Will she find out what she is looking for?  She does learn more about her mother's family and I see this as a big part of the series. Who her mother's family are and why were they estranged?


I enjoyed reading this book, not fast-paced but easy enough to read. I see this as a fun series that I would continue reading. If you love a good historical mystery that takes place during Prohibition, then this is the series for you.




Dangerous Flaws (Leah Nash Mysteries, #5) - Susan Hunter
Dangerous Flaws by Susan Hunter is one of those novels that you just want to keep on reading, my hubby actually read it first and liked it.
Leah Nash is a true crime writer that lives in Himmel Wisconsin, I live in Wisconsin even though the town is fictitious, at least I think it is, could not find it on a map or a google search. That is one of the reasons I wanted to read the book, I could relate to small-town life.
So on to the story, Leah is surprised when, while investigating the murder of a young college professor that the police they are focused on her ex-husband, Nick, as the suspect. She knows his flaws and that he is a liar but she does not think that murder is one of his flaws. She agrees to help Nick's lawyer, Gabe, and prove that he did not do it. 
There is another death and she knows that she needs to find the murderer pretty quick. She finds hidden motives and has to strip  away lies and there are twists and turns that she never expected. Can she find the murderer? Well on that you will have to read the book.
Hubby at first said that it took him a bit to get into it but I didn't find that as a problem. I got into it right away, loved the characters, especially Leah and Miguel. The plot was interesting and intriguing and kept my attention from start to finish. I love good mysteries and this one is a good one. I highly recommend it and suggest you go get a copy! 
Why Kill the Innocent - C.S. Harris

Why Kill the Innocent by C.S.Harris is the 13th book in the Sebastian St. Cyr series. Jane Ambrose is found covered in snow, murdered, by Hero, the wife of Viscount Devlin. Devlin will be the one investigating the murder. His suspects include a wide amount of people connected to Princess Charlotte, the only child of the Prince Regent and heir presumptive to the throne. Untangling the secrets of Jane's world leads Sebastian into dangerous treachery where no one can be trusted.

This is the first book in the series that I have read. Except for a few bits of information that would have helped me in the book, I was in no way put out by that. That said, this can be read as a stand-alone. I found the story to be really well researched. As I finished the book and read the Author's Note, I was amazed as to how much research by the author there was. That always impresses me when an author of historical fiction sticks to the facts as much as they can. 

Innocence Lost (Bootleggers' Chronicles #1) - Sherilyn Decter

Innocence Lost by Sherilyn Decter is a story of Maggie Barnes, a widow with a young son to raise in Philadelphia, 1924. Maggie is finding is extremely difficult making ends meet including putting food on the table and paying the bills. She decides to open her house to guests, she has room for a few lodgers. One of the lodgers is Constable Joe Kelly, also living with her is Mr.Mansfield and Mr. Smith. 

Her son Tommy is at a warehouse along with a few of his friends, where there are some bootleggers, led by Mickey Duffy.  There is a police raid, they end up running and one of his friends, Oskar, goes missing. Tommy is scared and doesn't say anything of what he knows about the raid and the missing boy. The boy is eventually found, in the river and this starts the investigation that Maggie finds herself in. Ironically, Maggie also becomes friends with Mickey Duffy's wife Edith.

Prohibition was the norm in the '20s, there were speakeasies all over  Philadelphia. Maggie along with the help of Joe, they try to find and capture the bootleggers. Maggie also has another person helping her, a ghost of a Victorian cop, Inspector Frank Geyer. Their investigation into who and how Oskar died takes them into the world of gangsters and corruption. 

I have not read a lot about Prohibition or gangsters, so I was a bit apprehensive because I like different genres in historical fiction, that said, I really enjoyed this book. There was a great amount of research done in this book, an ultimately the whole Bootlegger's Chronicles. A fast and entertaining read.  I highly recommend and look forward to reading the next in the series.

The Liar's Room - Simon Lelic

"She wakes to find herself broken, and it the first question that enters her head. The next: where am I?" Thus begins the story of Susanna Fenton and her daughter Emily.

Fourteen years ago, Susanna Fenton ran away from a previous life with her daughter Emily, now a teenager. She has a comfortable life, a career as a therapist but she is haunted by her past and her daughter knows nothing of what happened. 

One day, a new patient comes through the door of her office, Adam Geraghty. While she is trying to get to the reason why he came to her, he starts asking personal questions. He tells her he wants to do something bad and doesn't know if he can stop himself. The session goes on in this way and Adam brings up Emily. This is when Susanna gets really concerned and scared. 

The story is told in different views, Susanna and Emily. We learn that Emily has had a young man befriend her, his name is Adam and she is besotted with him. As Susanna is getting more and more scared and unsure what Adam has done with her daughter, she desperately seeks a way to escape. What happened fourteen years ago? Why is this young man keeping her hostage? Good questions. You will have to read the book to find out! 

I love a good psychological thriller and this one was definetly a thriller worth reading. I have not read anything else by Simon Lelic, but I do have The New Neighbors that I intend to read. 

The Girls in the Picture: A Novel - Melanie Benjamin

What a delightful book! About Mary Pickford and Frances Marion, two real characters from the Hollywood scene. Mary was a child stage actress who continued to play girls even into her twenties. Her younger siblings, Jack and Lottie were also forced to work on the stage. The main characters in this story though are Mary, Frances and Mary's mother Charlotte. 


in 1909, with no work in sight, Mary decides to appear in the "flickers" and becomes America's Sweetheart. Frances Marion is a talented woman who writes screenplays. She met Mary Pickford when Mary's first husband, Owen, invited Frances to sketch his wife. They immediately became fast friends and they collaborated on films. Mary doing the acting and Frances writing the script. Mary came to own her own production company along with her husband Douglas Fairbanks, and Charlie Chaplin. So with Frances writing and Mary acting, they were definitely a force to be reckoned with. Both women were passionate and fierce when it came to their careers and would do what it took to succeed. 


Mary had a whirlwind marriage with Douglas Fairbanks but their marriage did end. Frances was introduced to the love of her life, Fred Thompson and they had two sons. Mary and Frances stayed friends until Frances died in 1973 and Mary died in 1979. 


This book was very interesting to me, I had not read a lot about Hollywood and Mary Pickford in particular. It appears that there had been a lot of research. Full of real characters, producers, D.W. Griffith, Cecil B. DeMille, Albert Capellani and the Lumière brothers from France and actresses  Lilian Gish, Lois Weber, Frances Marion, Anita Loos, June Mathis. What a cornucopia of people! A book with a passion for acting and the persona's of Mary and Frances were amazing and poignant. Lots of history of Hollywood, silent films and talkies! I loved it and recommend reading this one! The girls in the picture may have faded over time but they are never forgotten!


From Across the Room - Gina L. Mulligan
What an interesting concept for a book! Writing a novel in the form of letters can't be easy and to be successful at that. From Across the Room is told completely in the form of letters. Mostly from the main character, Thomas Gadwell. He has met a young lady, Mary Harting and is smitten. The problem is, her father absolutely forbids them to see each other. He is currently writing his second novel and Mary's father feels that that is not a good way to make a living.
So in the form of the letters, he writes to Mary or darling Mary as he calls her, his editor Avery, Henry, his mentor, and his father. These letters are one-sided but as Thomas writes these letters we learn what the person who receives the letters writes back had to say in their own letters. His main purpose I think in writing these letters is to get advice on how he is to get in Mary's fathers good graces and what he should do to pursue his goal of having Mary for his own.
The reader learns about his visits to Mary and her family, his visits home when his father has a heart attack and his visits to his friends. The writing is very descriptive to the time, 1888-89, how Mary is restricted in how she can visit Thomas, although they do meet against her father's wishes. 
I was totally impressed with this book, I am generally not a fan of this era and thought that I would have a hard time reading it. That did not happen, I got totally immersed in the story and have to say that the ending caught me off guard. I really enjoyed the book and highly recommend it. You won't be disappointed!


Currently reading

Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin
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The Huntress by Kate Quinn