Review of A Game of Lies, by Rebecca Cantrell

Hannah Vogel is back in Berlin, this time to report on the 1936 Olympic Games and do some spying for the British under cover as neutral Swiss reporter Adelheid Zinsli. She hopes to undermine the Nazis and awaken the British before it’s too late, but is she actually accomplishing anything? Quite the existential crisis in the midst of terrifying action.

Continue reading

Review of Queen without a Crown by Fiona Buckley

Fiona Buckley’s latest installment in her Ursula Blanchard mystery series set in Elizabeth I’s court, Queen without a Crown, will please her fans. Ursula is back in action on a double mission, to track down Elizabeth’s hidden foes and to lift an accusation of poisoner from a man who died twenty-three years before. Both seem impossible, but Ursula has no choice.

Continue reading

Review of A Bitter Veil by Libby Fischer Hellman

Iran is in the news these days and the issues are important to us all, so it was with interest that I picked up Libby Fischer Hellman’s new novel, A Bitter Veil, set in the midst of the Iranian revolution that brought Khomeini to power. Two essential themes predominate in this viscerally effective novel: the fate of women when their choices have been taken from them and the banality of evil, to borrow a phrase applied to the Nazis—who also appear in this book if somewhat indirectly.

Continue reading

Review of A Trace of Smoke, by Rebecca Cantrell

Berlin, 1931, the year Germany was lost to the Nazis. Hannah Vogel, a crime reporter, wanders into the Hall of the Unnamed Dead to examine the police reports from which she gathers her stories each week. Instead she sees her brother’s photograph on the wall. But her identity papers, and with them her ability to talk to the police, are on their way to America in the hands of her Jewish friend Sarah. Finding out who killed her brother is the least of many traps Hannah will fall into.

Continue reading

Review of A Killing Season by Priscilla Royal

The setting of A Killing Season is a fearsome castle in the middle of winter—a castle that “looms like Satan’s shadow” on a wild coast connected to the mainland only by a narrow walkway over jagged rocks and crashing sea. Murders are propagating at an alarming rate. Is some evil plot of men behind these deaths or has the devil come to exact his due? Can Prioress Eleanor and Brother Thomas stop them or will they fall victim to Satan’s wiles?

Continue reading

Review of Empress of the Seven Hills, by Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn knows how to serve up a full-flavored Rome with plenty of spice. Empress of the Seven Hills is driven along by fully-developed characters and skillful dialogue. Her main character, Sabina, from a powerful patrician family, sets out to see the world—and the world of the Roman Empire is a big place!

Continue reading

Review of Elegy for Eddie, by Jacqueline Winspear

If you are a fan of Jacqueline Winspear’s mysteries set in London between the World Wars, when you read her last book (A Lesson in Secrets) you might have thought Maisie Dobb’s life was getting comfortably settled. Without any soap opera antics, just Winspear’s impeccable, nuanced character development, Maisie is at sea again in a variety of ways, and she’s solving a mystery of a completely new sort. Eddie is a “slow” man who has a magic way with horses. When he dies in an “accident,” the cockney costermongers of Maisie’s childhood feel justice hasn’t been done and they come to see her. You wouldn’t think this would involve issues of national safety, now would you?

Continue reading

Review of Death Comes to Pemberley, by P.D. James

Instead of contemporary England, P.D. James has set her latest book at Pemberley estate in 1803, six years after Miss Elizabeth Bennet has married Darcy. That is, P.D. James takes the prose of Jane Austen as her setting. James plus Austen is a fascinating combination, although there are some difficulties in the marriage.

Continue reading

George R.R. Martin interviews Bernard Cornwell: a link to great ideas about historical fiction

If you’ve ever thought about the relationship between historical fantasy and historical fiction (think Tolkien vs. Forester), how HF writers cope with the strictures of following known history, why Cornwell will never write “alternate” history, how to write a great battle scene, or love either of these writers, you’ll enjoy this interview between Bernard Cornwell and George R.R. Martin.

Continue reading