No Mark Upon Her- Review

 

I just finished Not A Mark Upon Her by Deborah Crombie. It’s the first Crombie book I’ve read and I enjoyed it. I know, I know, it took me a while to get around to reading one of her books, but I can tell you, it certainly won’t be the last.

 

The body of a rower, who has been training for the Olympics, in found in the Thames. Scotland Yard Superintendent Duncan Kincaid gets the case. Soon after, his wife, Detective Inspector Gemma James, indirectly joins the investigation by means of working on another case. The victim had been a police officer in James’ jurisdiction so the team has to walk a fine line while investigating other officers.

 

The story has many suspects and twists and turns, but not too many. It was easy to keep track of who was doing what. There’s corruption, heartbreak, scandal, PTSD, many things that kept my interest and had me turning pages. Oh, and if you’re a dog lover, you’ll like it. I was particularly interested in the process of rescue and recovery using dogs. She goes into it in some detail and she showed the personality of the two dogs in the story. One of the dogs also helps a character with his PTSD, which I liked and found interesting.

 

Crombie also delved into the world of competitive rowing. What little I know on the subject is from reading The Boys In the Boat, by Daniel James Brown. (I highly recommend the book. It’s about the young men who competed on behalf of America in the 1936 Olympics.)

 

So this story was much more recent and it showed how the British upper class revere the sport. The terms Blue Team and Blue Boat figure prominently throughout the story. Learned a thing or two. Apparently rowing for Cambridge in the blue boat carries quite a bit of prestige, which I assumed it would.

 

As a side note, I find it intriguing that Crombie writes about Britain and British society since she was born an American and is currently living in Texas. I see in her bio that she lived in England for a while, so I think that explains why she’s so adept at it. I find the whole process of writing about another culture interesting.

 

So go check it out. It’s a quick read. Trust me! If I can breeze through it, you can too. Enjoy!


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Review of Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

photo courtesy of marthahallkelly.com

The first thing I have to say about this book is, wow! Martha Hall Kelly’s debut novel gets a solid “A” from me. The second thing is that I can tell she did a lot of research. On her Goodreads page she says she did ten years of research for the book. (That’s right. You can go to Goodreads and ask authors questions!) If you’ve ever tried to write any historical fiction, you will often find that getting the details right can be time consuming and frustrating. Kelly has masterfully layered bits of history and details of places that put the reader right in the environment of the time. And a third observation, the voices of the three characters are unique. You see the world through their eyes and the reasons they make the choices that they do.

 

The three women that we follow are:

 

  1. Caroline Ferriday who is a New York socialite. The kind of socialite that can walk around the block and go to the fundraiser at the Vanderbilt mansion. Yet Caroline and her mother work hard to save orphans in France and later, the Rabbits of Ravensbrück.
  2. Kasia Kuzmerick is a teen in Poland. Her father works at the post office and her mother is an artist. She’s close to her younger sister, Suzanna. Their world of Girl Guides and boy crushes ends abruptly when the Nazis invade Poland. They both get sent to Ravensbrück and become one of the famous Rabbits.
  3. Herta Oberheuser is a young German doctor fresh from medical school who’s trying to find her way amid the male-dominated field of medicine. She takes a government job at Ravensbrück thinking that she will have more freedom to pursue her love of medicine and help people. The moment she arrives she realizes she’s made a mistake.

 

And to steal a quote from the Lilac Girls Goodreads page:

 

The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten. 

 

 

Again, Kelly does a fantastic job of weaving details of time and place into each story. It’s evident that she’s done extensive research like what the Vanderbilt mansion looked like, and idioms that people said in New York, Poland, and Germany. She paints pictures that put me right in the scene. I could clearly smell and hear the action. Of course, that includes fetid and cold Ravensbrück too.

 

I kept reading because I was interested in each character and I wanted to see how all three stories finally came together. Kelly’s story about the Ravensbrück Rabbits is based on real events and people. Caroline Ferriday was a real person that worked for the justice of the Rabbits, Kasia and Suzanna were based on the two Polish sisters, Nina and Krystyna Ivanska, and Herta Oberheuser really was a medical doctor at the camp. I won’t tell you what happens to them because I don’t want to spoil anything. But their stories of love and survival are compelling, Even more so since it really happened.

 

Why is it titled “Lilac Girls”? There’s a quote near the end of the book, when Ferriday is working in her garden.

 

 

But it’s fitting in a way- Father loved the fact that a lilac only blossoms after a harsh winter.

 

 

In Kelly’s Author Notes she says she first learned about Ferriday from a 1999 article in Victoria magazine about Ferriday’s house in Bethlehem, Connecticut called The Hay. She couldn’t get it out of her mind and drove up there to see it. She was lucky on the day in May, she was the only visitor and got to tour the grounds at her leisure. There was a picture of Ferriday posing with some women. The guide told her the story about the Rabbits. The story stuck with her.

 

And I’m not the only one who’s glad it did.

 

 

If you would like to learn more—-

 

The Ferriday house- http://www.ci.bethlehem.ct.us/bellamy_ferriday.htm

 

An article about when Kelly met one of the women- http://www.marthahallkelly.com/one-of-the-last-ravensbruck-rabbits-tells-her-terrifying-story/

 

Ravensbrück- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ravensbr%C3%BCck_concentration_camp


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We’re In Mystery Scene Magazine!

(Click on the book title below for link to review on website)

by Ramona DeFelice Long, ed.
Wildside, April 2015, $12.99

Being a Texan, I feel it’s only right for me to recommend Murder on Wheels, presented by the Austin Mystery Writers. Kaye George explains in her introduction that the genesis of the anthology was a discussion of a Megabus trip, and “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round,” one of her two stories in the book, is an ingenious investigation of that setting. The remaining ten stories all involve transportation, mostly wheeled, although V. P. Chandler’s “Rota Fortunae” is set on a sailing ship in the 18th century. The name of the ship that provides the story’s title means “wheel of fate,” however, so it certainly fits. “Red’s White F-150 Blues” by Scott Montgomery is a wild story of the things that can go wrong when you do a favor for a friend. Reavis Wortham spins a compact yarn about a “Family Business” that spans decades. “Mome Rath, My Sweet” by Gale Albright is a mash-up of Alice in Wonderland and a hardboiled PI novel, which gives Hollywood PI Jake Grimm a tough case, but then he’s just the guy to solve it. Earl Staggs is a man who knows school buses, and “Dead Man on a School Bus” makes use of that knowledge with his story’s unusual setting. The other stories here will all keep you entertained as they roll along.

Bill Crider

 


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Movie Review of Mr. Holmes

Once again it was my turn to write something on the Austin Mystery Writers blog.

Click on the link to what I said about the movie. Don’t worry, no spoilers!

And when you get there, click on the picture. It will take you to a featurette.

Movie Review of Mr. Holmes on Austin Mystery Writers. 


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Review of Nefarious

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Steven F. Freeman’s first book in his Blackwell Files series, Nefarious, starts with a bang, literally. Army Communications Captain and cryptologist, Alton Blackwell, is stationed in Kabul and his leg is severely injured in an explosion. I liked Alton right from the start. He’s intelligent and tough, yet he’s also empathetic and kind. Because of his injury, he’s assigned to a desk job, but he’s still able to use his expertise to foil various Al-Qaeda plots. Freeman takes the reader through some nail-biting scenarios, which of course is fun.

Meanwhile, in America a boy is bitten by a raccoon and has to have rabies shots. This leads his father to want to develop a vaccine that’s more effective and less traumatic. I wondered how in the world Freeman was going to connect the two stories, but he does in an inventive and interesting way.

Blackwell returns stateside, which I think is okay with him because he’s now closer to the lovely Mallory Wilson, whom he had met back in Kabul. He’s asked by an Army friend, who now works for the FBI, to help investigate the biotech firm working on the rabies vaccine. People who work for the biotech firm are dying. Blackwell and friends work to discover why, and begin to put the pieces together that uncover a grand conspiracy. The action intensifies, the body count grows, and it’s questionable as to whether Blackwell will be able to handle the physical challenges because of the limitations of his permanently damaged leg.

I don’t usually read techno thrillers, but this one kept me turning pages. Freeman’s newest book, Havoc, the 4th in his Blackwell series, will be out soon. Keep an eye out for it!

This review was written in exchange for a free copy of the book. Can’t beat that deal!


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Book Review: Burrows by Reavis Z. Wortham

I wrote a book review for Burrows by Reavis Z. Wortham. The review is over on the Austin Mystery Writers website. Go check it out and see what I thought of it!          Austin Mystery Writers 

 

BurrowsCover


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