Book reviews as seen in Suspense Magazine (September Issue part 2)


By James R. Benn

This Billy Boyle World War II mystery is an exceptionally written book, taking readers back to the time of D-Day preparation. The ‘powers that be’ are gathering men and war equipment on the southern coast of England at a place called Slapton Sands. The reason for this is ‘Operation Tiger,’ which will be a practice run for the coming invasion of Normandy.

One morning, an unidentified corpse washes up on shore and United States Captain Billy Boyle and his partner, Lt. Piotr “Kaz” Kazimierz, are assigned to investigate how and why a body has drifted into such a highly-restricted area. Seeing as that the Army is utilizing Slapton Sands as the locale of their secret rehearsal, Billy and Kaz must find out if this particular body is one of an enemy spy.

As luck would have it, Kaz has an old school chum living nearby who agrees to give the guys a place to stay while their investigation is in progress. The men love it there at Ashcroft and make it their business to get to know the family, as well as meet up with some very interesting characters.

Just when the duo think that they have the problem solved, a terrible tragedy occurs during the D-Day rehearsal that takes the lives of hundreds of men. Topping it all off, things begin to get complicated at Ashcroft when family members turn on one another, hurling family secrets and causing pain until a person in the family dies. It is unknown if the cause of death is a heart attack or something far worse, and both Billy and Kaz must rise to the challenge in order to bring the truth to light.

The plot and historical sights and sounds are top-notch as the author brings readers back to the time where the fate of the United States was unknown. Whether a reader holds WWII books or suspense books close to their heart, this one will be a true find.

Reviewed by Mary Lignor, Professional Librarian and Co-Owner of The Write Companion



By Lea Wait

New Jersey college professor and antique print dealer Maggie Summer finds herself wrestling with life-changing choices. Longing for a child, she is on her agency’s short list to adopt a daughter. Perhaps, even two. But there’s a catch. Her would-be fiancé, Will, has made it clear that he has no interest in children. Perhaps she and Will aren’t destined to be together after all.

Maggie decides that she and Will need to have an “important conversation,” and accepts his invitation to spend Christmas in Waymouth, Maine, where he is now the primary caregiver for his Aunt Nettie. On the surface, Waymouth is the perfect New England town. But beneath the surface, there are secrets—many secrets. And one of the most explosive ones involves Aunt Nettie and several of her close friends, all of whom are now in the eighties and nineties.

Two of Aunt Nettie’s closest friends are the wealthy Ruth Weston and her sister, Betty Hoskins. Betty is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s, and Ruth has hired a local woman, Carrie Folk, to help with her care. Then Carrie is found dead, under suspicious circumstances, just before Christmas.

Maggie’s reputation as an amateur sleuth is known to the local police, and she and Aunt Nettie are enlisted to help in the investigation. With unexpected results.

“Shadows on a Maine Christmas is the seventh in Lea Wait’s Antique Print Mystery series. And like the six previous ones, it’s an intelligent and entertaining mystery, with likeable characters and a plot that keeps the reader guessing until the very last page. Can’t wait for number eight!

Reviewed by Susan Santangelo, author of “Funerals Can Be Murder,” published by Suspense Publishing, an imprint of Suspense Magazine



By Nicola Upson

In her fifth Josephine Tey mystery, Nicola Upson weaves together real-life mystery writer Tey with the real-life mystery known as the Red Barn Murder. Given that the novel is set in 1936 and the Red Barn Murder occurred in 1828, this takes some literary cleverness that, overall, Upson pulls off with ease. Tey is notified that Hester Larkspur, the godmother she never really knew, has passed away and left her a cottage in Suffolk. The cottage is near the former location of the infamous Red Barn, and was purchased by Hester because of her longtime fascination with the crime; as a stage actress, she portrayed the murder victim, Maria Marten, over a thousand times in a touring melodrama. In addition to the mysterious backdrop provided by the century-old murder, there are some contemporary mysteries as well, such as trying to find one Lucy Kyte—also named in Hester’s will—and the odd, lonely death of Hester herself.

The story is largely character driven, and the hints of a modern mystery, perhaps somehow linked to the Red Barn Murders, are few and subtle. This isn’t a mystery novel, but a novel that happens to have a bit of mystery. That isn’t meant as a criticism; Upson’s portrayal of Tey is engaging and carries the reader through a story that doesn’t have chase scenes and shoot outs every few pages. This is a story about how Tey cleans out the secluded cottage of her godmother and becomes fascinated by a murder through reading old diaries and interacting with the locals who still have strong feelings about the true crime that gave their village a bad name.

Upson fleshes out the story with Tey’s personal life; that Tey was notoriously private gives Upson room to imagine her motivations, friendships, and loves, which the author does with great affection. Fans of historical fiction will be drawn into this quiet story largely set in the English countryside, and readers returning to the series will enjoy the new developments in Tey’s relationships.

Reviewed by Scott Pearson, author of “Star Trek: The More Things Change” and cohost of the Generations Geek podcast ■



By Gary Corby

Corby has most definitely brought to readers three amazing tales they will not soon forget. And now comes a fourth historical mystery set in Greece that, yet again, is so well-written you will feel as if you are truly part of the Ancient World.

The elections are about to be held in the city of Athens and the city’s (wise) statesman, Pericles, asks his inquiry agent, Nicolaos, to look into a matter that could undermine all of the political elections. It seems that a skeleton has been found at a girls’ school located not too far from Athens.

Nico is the super sleuth, to say the least; a sleuth who has just taken time off to wed his investigating partner, Diotima. Of course, Pericles and the case put that happy occasion on hold. Especially when the remains just happen to be those of Hippias. This was the massive traitor to the Greeks and, in the Battle of Marathon, was killed and left behind in Persia. The veterans of that battle are beyond angry. They have always claimed they were the men who thwarted the traitor, and they need to gain favor and political power, not stones to the head. And if this is not enough trouble, one of the girls who found the bones is dead, and the other has gone missing.

Shocking surprises arrive to the Athenian world, as they wonder why and how the traitor is ‘back.’ There is no obvious reason behind the bones finding their home in Athens, and Nico and Pericles must solve the mystery as fast as possible before Athens becomes a bed of power hungry, angry, willing-to-do-anything tyrants.

This will have the wealth of historical mystery buffs jumping up and down for joy. As with Corby’s other works, the tale is full of humor, suspense-filled plots, subplots, and characters that are unforgettable. It is no overstatement to say that Corby most definitely knows his history backwards and forwards, providing stories that are beyond exciting.

Reviewed by Mary Lignor, Professional Librarian and Co-Owner of The Write Companion



By Joshua Graham & Jack Patterson

I have a serious issue to discuss with Joshua Graham and Jack Patterson. How dare they write the most intriguing book I’ve read in a long time in episodic fashion?

Have you ever wondered what the world would be like if Hitler and Germany won WWII? Well, Graham and Patterson have and what they’ve written will frighten and astound you. The year is 2015. Germany, having won, has colonized the world, and the country we call home is known as the Aryan States of America.

Grace, the Aryan States’ Fuhrer’s daughter is about to turn eighteen, and about to be confirmed as the regent of the Third District. While toweling off after a swim, Grace finds an envelope with her name on it. Intrigued, she opens it, only to find a clue. More follow until the last leads her to a forbidden room on the top floor of the mansion she lives in with her parents. Using her charm, she convinces a young soldier to go into the ‘library’ with her so she can find out where the trail ends.

Where it ends is in the shattering of everything she knows to be true. Where it ends is in the truth of the horrors of the Nazi regime and the holocaust.

What would you do if everything you loved was a lie? If everyone you loved was a lie? If your own life was a lie? How would you feel if you could not trust anyone? Would you run?

That’s what Grace does—she runs for her very life—but does she make it or get captured? Stay tuned for episode two to find out. Episodic novels are making a comeback and have some sort of ending at the end of each episode. “The Fuhrer’s Daughter” is the first I’ve read where the ending is a true cliffhanger.

The premise behind “The Fuhrer’s Daughter” is pure genius. Kudos to Graham and Patterson! I cannot wait for episode two.

Reviewed by J.M. LeDuc, author of “Sin,” published by Suspense Publishing, an imprint of Suspense Magazine

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