Tag: author posts

Author Post: Ann Cleeves

Ann Cleeves is a prolific English author who has written four separate mystery series. Her first featured amateur sleuths and bird watchers,  George and Molly Palmer-Jones (started 1986). The second series featured Inspector Ramsay and was set in the English county of Northumberland (started 1990). The Vera Stanhope series (started in 1999) and The Shetland Island Mysteries (started in 2006) have been turned into television shows, Vera and Shetland on BBCFirst (see trailer below), respectively.

Vera Stanhope series by Ann Cleeves

Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope is not the typical heroine.  She is middle aged, she works all the time, and she doesn’t make friends easily. On the other hand, she is good at her job.

  • The Crow Trap (1999)
  • Telling Tales (2005)
  • Hidden Depths (2007)
  • Silent Voices (2011)
  • The Glass Room (2012)
  • Harbour Street (2014)
  • The Moth Catcher (2015)
  • The Seagull (2017)

Shetland Island Mysteries by Ann Cleeves

These novels feature Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez.

Raven Black (2006) -reviewed here
White Nights (2008)
Red Bones (2009)
Blue Lightning (2010)
Dead Water (2013)
Thin Air (2014)
Too Good To Be True (2016, novella)
Cold Earth (2016)
Wild Fire (2018) -last in the series according to the author

Raven Black* by Ann Cleeves


(*Amazon Affiliate links)

The first in the Shetland Island Mysteries series, Raven Black won the coveted Dagger Award.

Although this novel says “A Thriller” on the cover, it really falls neatly into the mystery category (for reasons I can’t give away without spoilers).

Characters

One thing I really like about the book is how Cleeves builds her characters. She gives little in the way of physical description, but instead we get to know them in small increments through thoughts, actions, and even reactions from others. She reveals her characters as if by painting, by laying down a few strokes of color at a time. Using this technique, she builds the picture slowly and with a deft touch.

For example, we meet Magnus first. We begin to suspect he is elderly because his feet are stiff and achy and because he dozes while waiting.  A short time later we learn more, that people laugh at him and call him slow. When two young girls arrive, we see from their mix of fear and giddiness that he’s  ostracized and lonely.

When we meet main character Inspector Perez, his physical description is distorted because the observer is in a vehicle.

She saw the face of a man, the impressionist image of a face, blurred by the mist and muck on the glass, wild black hair and a strong hooked nose, black eyebrows.

The dialogue is sparse, except the times when Perez interviews someone. Even then there are breaks in the conversation filled with descriptions and observations. The low key dialogue helps create an atmosphere of silence and adds to the austere feeling.

Setting

The setting is well done and it is interesting to learn about the people or the Shetland Islands and their culture. None of it seems extraneous. For example, Cleeves uses a community festival held every year in Lerwick, Shetland called Up Helly Aa to help move along the plot.

Conclusion

Raven Black is beautifully written. Because the author combines realistic characters with a novel setting and a compelling plot, the reader is riveted right to the end. I definitely want to read more of this series and more novels by Ann Cleeves.

Trailer for Shetland

 

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About Author Posts:

Because I read a lot of mysteries, I’ve been trying to come up with a better system to keep track of which novels I’ve finished. I thought blogging would help, which it does, but I don’t always review everything I read. To get more organized, I’ve decided to create a series of author posts with lists of novels and links to my reviews. I plan to edit these pages as needed.

Author Post: Dorothy Gilman

Dorothy Gilman (1923-2012) wrote children’s books under her married name, Dorothy Gilman Butters, for a number of years before starting the popular Mrs. Pollifax series.  Gilman traveled extensively and used her experiences to send her protagonist to exotic locations throughout the world.

The Mrs. Pollifax Series by Dorothy Gilman

Mrs. Virgil (Emily) Pollifax of New Brunswick, New Jersey, is a widow with grown children and an unremarkable life. She is tired of attending her Garden Club meetings and frankly, is more than a little depressed. She wants to do something good for her country, so she begins to volunteer as a CIA agent.

(Red = Have read the book)

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax (1966)
The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax (1970)
The Elusive Mrs. Pollifax (1971)
A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax (1973)
Mrs. Pollifax on Safari (1977)
Mrs. Pollifax on the China Station (1983)
Mrs. Pollifax and the Hong Kong Buddha (1985)
Mrs. Pollifax and the Golden Triangle (1988)
Mrs. Pollifax and the Whirling Dervish (1990)
Mrs. Pollifax and the Second Thief (1993)
Mrs. Pollifax Pursued (1995)
Mrs. Pollifax and the Lion Killer (1996)
Mrs. Pollifax, Innocent Tourist (1997)
Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled (2000)

 

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax*by Dorothy Gilman

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

This is a delightful series with so much going for it:

  1. The protagonist, Mrs. Pollifax,  is smart and personable. You want to be friends with her or, better yet, have her as your grandmother.
  2. The mysteries are not predictable because Gilman has a talent for surprising the reader.
  3. The stories are still fresh and relevant, which is amazing given the first one was written over 50 years ago.
  4. Being a CIA agent allows Mrs. Pollifax to travel throughout the world and you get to travel with her.
  5. The novels are quick and easy to read (which is a bit of a negative because sometimes it might feel like you’ve finished too soon.)

Before I prepared the list, I thought I had read all the books in the series. Now I see I have missed two novels. Time to hunt them down!

A special thank you to Karen for introducing me to these books and supplying most of the copies.

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About Author Posts:

Because I read a lot of mysteries, I’ve been trying to come up with a better system to keep track of which novels I’ve finished. I thought blogging would help, which it does, but I don’t always review everything I read. To get more organized, I’ve decided to create a series of author posts with lists of novels and links to my reviews. I plan to edit these pages as needed.

Author Post: John Sandford

John Sandford (real name John Roswell Camp) started out as a journalist. After a distinguished career, including winning a Pulitzer, he decided that he could make more money writing novels. It turned out to be a good choice.

You can find out why he chose to write under a pseudonym for the Prey series and more at his website.

 

The Prey series featuring Lucas Davenport:

For the earlier novels, Lucas Davenport works for various law enforcement agencies in the city of Minneapolis. In the later novels, he goes to work for the U.S. Marshals Service and travels throughout the U.S.

1. Rules of Prey (1989)
2. Shadow Prey (1990)
3. Eyes of Prey (1991)
4. Silent Prey (1992)
5. Winter Prey (1993)
6. Night Prey (1994)
7. Mind Prey (1995)
8. Sudden Prey (1996)
9. Secret Prey (1998)
10. Certain Prey (1999)
11. Easy Prey (2000) –Reviewed
12. Chosen Prey (2001)
13. Mortal Prey (2002)
14. Naked Prey (2003)
15. Hidden Prey (2004)
16. Broken Prey (2005)
17. Invisible Prey (2007)
18. Phantom Prey (2008)
19. Wicked Prey (2009)
20. Storm Prey (2010)
21. Buried Prey (2011)
22. Stolen Prey (2012)
23. Silken Prey (2013) -reviewed below
24. Field of Prey (2014) -shelf
25. Gathering Prey (2015) -shelf
26. Extreme Prey (2016)
27. Golden Prey (April 25, 2017) – Reviewed
28. Twisted Prey (April 24, 2018)
29. Neon Prey (April 23, 2019)

He also has a series featuring Virgil Flowers (as John Sandford) and the Kidd series, originally published under the name John Camp (some more recent editions name John Sandford instead).

Silken Prey* by John Sandford


(*Amazon Affiliate Link)

Jacket Blurb:  Dirty politics hits a new low when one of the candidates of a close race, an incumbent U.S. senator, is caught with child porn. The governor entices Lucas Davenport to investigate whether the senator was framed and if so, by whom. When a political fixer disappears, the trail of dirty tricks points to the senator’s opponent, a smart and powerful young woman. Is she the one and will Lucas be able to stop her?

Characters

John Sandford is an absolute master at creating fully-rounded characters. He has a way of introducing each new person vividly and with memorable details, so that it is easy to keep them straight.

Lauren opened the door, a slender woman, not tall, with red hair and high cheekbones and a big smile.

Describing his friend Elle, the nun:

… now wore what Lucas called “the drabs:  brown or gray dresses and long stockings with a little brown coif stuck on top of her head like the vanilla twist on a Dairy Queen cone.

Can’t you see her?  Although, if the coif is brown, perhaps it should have been a chocolate twist?

His villains are also memorable and well-developed, something that isn’t always easy to do. According to his website, Sandford apparently researches criminals (true crime) so that his antagonists are fictionalized versions of real people or events.

Genre

The Lucas Davenport novels are firmly in the thriller camp. Readers learn quite soon who is behind the dirty tricks and also what happened to the guy who disappeared. The readers spends the rest of the time wondering if Davenport will also be able to figure out what is going on and stop the criminals in time. The cool thing is, with the Prey series it isn’t a given that everything will be wrapped up neatly in a bow at the end.  Knowing that ramps up the tension.

Conclusion

John Sandford is a frequent guest at Poisoned Pen Bookstore. You can get to know him better in this video of his book signing for Extreme Prey.

As Douglas Preston notes, John Sandford’s works seem prescient at times. He has a special talent to be able to keep his novels relevant years after they were first published.

An aspiring writer would do well to study John Sandford’s techniques.

 

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About Author Posts:

Because I read a lot of mysteries, I’ve been trying to come up with a better system to keep track of which novels I’ve finished. I thought blogging would help, which it does, but I don’t always review everything I read. To get more organized, I’ve decided to create a series of author posts with lists of novels and links to my reviews. I plan to edit these pages as needed.

Author Post: Lisa Lutz

Early in her career, Liza Lutz wanted to be a screenwriter. After selling one screenplay, things stalled. She first wrote The Spellman Files as a screenplay, but it was only able to publish it after turning it into a novel. After some success as a mystery author, Lisa now writes for the HBO series The Deuce.

 

Spellman Novels by Lisa Lutz:

The Spellmans are an unconventional family (read dysfunctional) of private investigators who often spend more time investigating each other than criminals.

The great thing about the series is that that you could feel comfortable recommending them to a young adult or even your mother because they are devoid of violent murders. Plus, they feature plenty of laughs.

  • The Spellman Files (reviewed) -signed copy
  • Curse of the Spellmans
  • Revenge of the Spellmans
  • The Spellmans Strike Again
  • Trail of the Spellmans
  • Spellman Six: The Next Generation / The Last Word

The Spellman’s Strike Again

Lisa Lutz also has a stand alone (so far) thriller, The Passenger (2016).

 

 

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About Author Posts:

Because I read a lot of mysteries, I’ve been trying to come up with a better system to keep track of which novels I’ve finished. I thought blogging would help, which it does, but I don’t always review everything I read. To get more organized, I’ve decided to create a series of author posts with lists of novels and links to my reviews. I plan to edit these pages as needed.

Author Post: Robert Galbraith

Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling who best known for writing the Harry Potter books.

 

Cormoran Strike series:

Private detective Cormoran Strike lost his leg in Afghanistan, but that isn’t why he’s struggling. Instead, he’s had a run of bad luck. He’s broken up with his girlfriend, is down to one client, and is living at his office. Now that he has a new assistant named Robin, is his luck about the change?

  • The Cuckoo’s Calling (2014) – my review
  • The Silkworm (2015)
  • Career of Evil (2016)
  • Lethal White (coming out Sept. 2018)

 

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About Author Posts:

Because I read a lot of mysteries, I’ve been trying to come up with a better system to keep track of which novels I’ve finished. I thought blogging would help, which it does, but I don’t always review everything I read. To get more organized, I’ve decided to create a series of author posts with lists of novels and links to my reviews. I plan to edit these pages as needed.

Author Post: Shelley Coriell

Local Arizona author Shelley Coriell started out working as a journalist and restaurant critic. Now she writes mysteries, romantic suspense, and young adult novels.

 

The Apostles romantic suspense series 

I’ve met Shelley several times at local events. At one workshop she told a heartbreaking story about how The Apostles series came about. She was at the hospital where her father was recovering from a stroke and a bad accident with an ATV. Shelley’s sister was taking care of his health issues and her brother was taking care of the financial issues, so Shelley felt at a lost about what to do. She decided to provide a distraction by getting her father to help her flesh out a story idea she had. The three books below are the result of that hospital stay.

The Apostles are a special group of handpicked FBI agents who work for a reclusive FBI legend named Parker Lord.

I really like this series. The books are a bit darker than typical romantic suspense and probably are closer to thrillers. (Links are to my reviews)

Mystery Short Story Collections featuring Detective Lottie King

Coriell introduced Detective Lottie King as a minor character in the first book of The Apostles series, The Broken. Lottie was so popular that Shelley decided to write more about her. By the way, Shelley is a bit of a foodie and she includes some Lottie-inspired recipes.

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About Author Posts:

Because I read a lot of mysteries, I’ve been trying to come up with a better system to keep track of which novels I’ve finished. I thought blogging would help, which it does, but I don’t always review everything I read. To get more organized, I’ve decided to create a series of author posts with lists of novels and links to my reviews. I plan to edit these pages as needed.

Author Post: Ian Rankin

Ian Rankin was born in Scotland and lives in Edinburgh.

Ian Rankin Novels:

John Rebus series

Ian Rankin was 25 years old when he wrote  Knots and Crosses. He did a magnificent job creating the older, grizzled character in John Rebus. The novels are riveting mysteries that are well-paced, with a nicely-detailed setting and have a believable plot. Rebus doesn’t solve everything alone, but is part of a team. Each novel involves some sort of puzzle as well.

I can’t wait to read more of the twenty-some novels featuring Inspector John Rebus.

1. Knots and Crosses (1987) –review
2. Hide and Seek (1991)
3. Tooth and Nail (original title Wolfman) (1992)
4. Strip Jack (1992)
5. The Black Book (1993)
6. Mortal Causes (1994)
7. Let It Bleed (1996)
8. Black and Blue (1997)
9. The Hanging Garden (1998)
10. Dead Souls (1999)
11. Set in Darkness (2000)
12. The Falls (2001) – review
13. Resurrection Men (2002)
14. A Question of Blood (2003)
15. Fleshmarket Close (published in the US as Fleshmarket Alley) (2004)
16. The Naming of the Dead (2006)
17. Exit Music (2007)
18. Standing in Another Man’s Grave (2012)
19. Saints of the Shadow Bible (2013)
20. The Beat Goes On: The Complete Short Stories (2014)
21. Even Dogs in the Wild (2015)
22. Rather Be the Devil (2016)

There’s also a British TV series based on the Rebus books.

Malcom Fox series

Malcom Fox is one of the “Complaints” or cops who investigate other cops.

  1. The Complaints (2009) –shelf – Fox’s investigations don’t make him popular and when his own actions are called to question, he isn’t sure who he can trust to help. 
  2. The Impossible Dead
  3. Standing in Another Man’s Grave
  4. Saints of the Shadow Bible
  5. Even Dogs in the Wild
  6. Rather Be the Devil (with Rebus)

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About Author Posts:

Because I read a lot of mysteries, I’ve been trying to come up with a better system to keep track of which novels I’ve finished. I thought blogging would help, which it does, but I don’t always review everything I read. To get more organized, I’ve decided to create a series of author posts with lists of novels and links to my reviews. I plan to edit these pages as needed.

Author Post: Michael Connelly

Michael Connelly started out as a crime reporter in Florida and eventually moved to Los Angeles. Inspired by Raymond Chandler, he began writing mystery novels. He has twenty-one bestselling titles in the Harry Bosch series alone.

I decided to read his novels when my stepfather recommended him.

 

 

Michael Connelly novels:

Harry Bosch Series:

Los Angeles Police Detective Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch is Michael Connelly’s most famous character. (Red = read)

  • The Black Echo (1992)
  • The Black Ice (1993)
  • The Concrete Blonde (1994)
  • The Last Coyote (1995)
  • Trunk Music (1997) -ordered
  • Angels Flight (1999)
 -shelf
  • A Darkness More Than Night (2001)
  • City Of Bones (2002) -shelf
  • Lost Light (2003)
  • The Narrows (2004) (sequel to The Poet, below)
  • The Closers (2005) – shelf
  • Echo Park (2006) -shelf
  • The Overlook  (2007) -shelf
  • Nine Dragons (2009) (also featuring Mickey Haller)- shelf
  • The Drop (2011)
 – shelf
  • The Black Box (2012)
  • The Burning Room (2014)-shelf
  • The Crossing (2015) (also featuring Mickey Haller)
  • The Wrong Side Of Goodbye (2016) (also featuring Mickey Haller) -shelf
  • Two Kinds Of Truth (2017) (also featuring Mickey Haller) – shelf
  • Dark Sacred Night (coming October 2018) (also featuring Renée Ballard)

Connelly’s main character also inspired the popular Amazon series Bosch, loosely based on the novels.

Michael Connelly has also written novels featuring other characters:

Jack McEvoy- reporter:

The Poet (1996)

This novel has a great first line:

Death is my beat.

Henry Pierce – chemical scientist and entrepreneur:

Chasing the Dime (2002) -shelf

Mickey Haller -defense attorney:

  • The Lincoln Lawyer (2005)
  • The Brass Verdict (2008) -shelf
  • The Reversal (2010)
  • The Fifth Witness (2011)
  • The Gods of Guilt (2013) – shelf

Renée Ballard – police detective:

The Late Show (2017)

The Late Show*

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Renée Ballard is a police detective who works the midnight shift, catching new cases but never getting the opportunity to see them through because they are passed on to the day shift. That is until she and her partner are sent to the hospital to check on a badly beaten prostitute and a young waitress who was shot in a bar fight. Renee senses these are important cases and decides to follow the investigations to the end. Can she obtain justice for the victims no one else cares about?

Connelly tends to torture his main characters with workplace problems. In this case, Renée Ballard is working the midnight shift because she had accused her supervisor of sexual harassment and the supervisor demoted her.

I can’t wait to see the sparks fly when Harry Bosch meets Renée Ballard in Dark Sacred Night coming out in October 2018.

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About Author Posts:

Because I read a lot of mysteries, I’ve been trying to come up with a better system to keep track of which novels I’ve finished. I thought blogging would help, which it does, but I don’t always review everything I read. To get more organized, I’ve decided to create a series of author posts with lists of novels and links to my reviews. I plan to edit these pages as needed.

Author Post: Francine Mathews

Francine Mathews writes a variety of genres. In addition to police procedural mysteries and spy thrillers, she has written a series of historical novels about Jane Austin acting as an amateur sleuth under the pen name Stephanie Barron.

Public domain image of Nantucket from NASA

Francine Mathews Novels

Merry Folger series

  1. Death in the Off Season (1994) – reviewed below
  2. Death in Rough Water (1995) -reviewed below
  3. Death in a Mood Indigo (1997)
  4. Death in a Cold Hard Light (1998)
  5. Death on Nantucket (2017)

In this police procedural mystery series, Detective Meredith (Merry) Folger is a third generation police officer who lives on the Island of Nantucket off Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Caroline Carmichael series

  1. The Cut Out (2001) – reviewed below
  2. Blown (2005)

Francine Mathews worked for a few years as an intelligence analyst for the CIA. She used her experience to write the Caroline Carmichael novels.

Death in the Off Season*

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Detective Meredith Folger’s father, who is chief of police, assigns Merry her first murder investigation when the mysterious brother of a prominent citizen ends up drowned in a cranberry field. Did the murderer intend to kill the victim, who had been hiding in Brazil for a decade? Or was the true target his brother Peter, a local cranberry farmer?

The Nantucket setting is intriguing and Mathews weaves in local details, such as the difficulty for residents to find affordable housing on an island that fills with wealthy tourists each summer. The plot is nicely complicated by the twist that we don’t know who the intended target is. There’s also a red herring or two.

The one weakness is the dialogue, which consists mainly straightforward interrogations with little realistic conflict between the participants and no subtext. It could have been richer.

 

Death in Rough Water

In the second of the series, Mathews delves deeply into the economic woes of the fishing industry on Nantucket. Merry’s close friend Del returns to the island after the death of Del’s’ father, fisherman Joe Duarte. It looks like Del is going to take over her father’s boat and fish for swordfish, but she is brutally murdered.  Merry’s father orders Merry to take a vacation. Instead, she continues to investigate her friend’s death.

For this novel, the intrigue builds around the father of Del’s daughter. If Merry can discover the toddler’s father’s true identity, it might reveal the motive for the murder. Mathews also weaves in a subplot around an anti-fishing activist and an explosion at Town Pier.

I was a bit disappointed when one of the side characters, who had been an admirable person up to this point, goes crazy with jealousy. It seemed like an unrealistic and contrived way to generate another suspect. The author could have created another character — one who was less stable from the get go — to fill the jealous role and it would have been more believable.

 

The Cut Out

When CIA analyst Caroline Carmichael discovers that her husband Eric — who is supposed to have been dead for two years — is actually alive and possibly working for the enemy, she is shocked. When the director sends her to find Eric and figure out what is happening, Caroline jumps at the chance even though she knows she’s being used.

Unlike with her Merry Folger books, this novel is filled with a huge cast of characters, so many that it is hard to keep track of them at times. Some of the characters were flat and not memorable, which didn’t help. The characters also travel all over the world, so the setting is more complex than the Merry Folger books.

The plot is also more tangled and and much, much darker.  As is usual with the spy thriller genre, the protagonist spends most of her time trying to figure out who she can rely on in her own team, including whether she can trust her own husband, rather than battling the bad guys.

In an unusual choice, the author writes flashbacks in present tense. I found it disorienting, which may have been the intention. After all, Caroline has just learned her husband is not who and where she thought he was.

The dialogue is better in this novel because everyone is lying and covering up their true agendas.

Conclusion:

Overall, I enjoyed the Merry Folger books a great deal and would like to read more in the series.

 

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About Author Posts:

Because I read a lot of mysteries, I’ve been trying to come up with a better system to keep track of which novels I’ve finished. I thought blogging would help, which it does, but I don’t always review everything I read. To get more organized, I’ve decided to create a series of author posts with lists of novels and links to my reviews. I plan to edit these pages as needed.

Sujata Massey: Author Post and The Pearl Diver Review

Sujata Massey taught English in Japan for several years.  She used her experiences to create the delightful Rei Shimura mystery series.

Novels by Sujata Massey

Rei Shimura series:

  • The Salaryman’s Wife (1997) –review
  • Zen Attitude (1998)
  • The Flower Master (1999)
  • The Floating Girl (2000)
  • The Bride’s Kimono (2001)
  • The Samurai’s Daughter (2003)
  • The Pearl Diver (2004) – reviewed below
  • The Typhoon Lover (2005)
  • Girl in a Box (2006)
  • Shimura Trouble (2008)
  • The Kizuna Coast (December 2014)

Daughters of Bengal:
The Sleeping Dictionary

The Perveen Mistry Investigations
The Widows of Malabar Hill (2018) (historical mystery)

Review:

The Pearl Diver* by Sujata Massey


(*Amazon Affiliate Link)

Rei Shimura has been banned from Japan and is now living in Washington D.C. with her boyfriend Hugh. When her cousin is kidnapped, Rei leaps into action to find her. One thing leads to another and soon she’s also trying to find a Japanese woman who disappeared many years earlier. Are the two cases linked?

Although the novel is no longer set in Japan like the first novel, I still like how Massey works in details of Japanese culture, especially Japanese antiques, food (bento boxes), and pearl diving. The new setting is also concrete and detailed. Massey has a fine touch with setting.

The plot is rich, with many well-developed characters. The front matter includes a “Cast of Characters” list with snippets about a dozen of the more prominent characters. Character lists are always handy references, but aren’t necessary to enjoy this book. Unlike some other novels, the author does a good job of introducing new people so that it is easy to remember who they are.

Compared to her debut novel, which had a few bumps, this one is well done. I particularly liked the ending, which I won’t reveal.

I want to read more of the novels in this series.

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Sujata Massey Author Post

Because I have been reading a lot of mysteries, I’ve been trying to come up with a better system to keep track of what I’ve read. I thought the blog would help, which it does, but I don’t always review everything I’ve read. To get more organized I’m going to try to create an author post for each author with lists of novels. I will update later by linking to newer reviews and marking books as read .

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