The Manual of Detection – a Review

The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry

Found at the library

In this tightly plotted yet mind-expanding debut novel, an unlikely detective, armed only with an umbrella and a singular handbook, must untangle a string of crimes committed in and through people’s dreams

I’m not really sure how to describe this one. It starts when lowly clerk Charles Unwin finds himself unexpectedly promoted to detective but given no cases. Instead he decides to solve a disappearance, but he has no clues.

I’m the one hand he just sort of bubbles through the investigation, but on the other events unravel in such unpredictable ways that I never knew where this story was going. I couldn’t even figure out what it was about for a really long time. I am sure though that whatever it was I just read, it was truly original and I’m glad I read it.

You can find a better synopsis, but I would avoid them. If this description appeals, just give it 50 pages and then decide if you like it. I’ll be interested to see what this author does next.


Deadly Engagement – a Review


Deadly Engagement by Lucinda Brant (Alec Halsey #1)

Synopsis: An eighteenth century historical mystery. Diplomat and amateur sleuth Alec Halsey becomes embroiled in countryhouse murder and mayhem. He must confront past demons in his love life and a cruel twist of fate that reveals why his brother now loathes him. If you love Sebastian St. Cyr novels by CS Harris and Julian Kestrel novels by Kate Ross then you’ll love Deadly Engagement.

My Thoughts:

When I opened this ebook, it was billed as a ‘crimance.’ Call me a word snob, but if I had seen that in the description, I never would have bothered reading it. What the heck is a crimance? But I can’t really hold that against the author because I don’t know who chose that word. It could have been her, but it could have been the editor, some PR person, or a random publishing exec. In any case, it’s such a horrible word!

But let’s put that aside and talk about the story. Alec arrives back in England after being posted in Paris. He goes to visit the woman he loves only to find that she is recently betrothed to his brother. And his former lover is there to witness his humiliation. Trying to forget his love, Alec learns that friend is dead from a duel, again with Alec’s brother, Edward. That guy is bad news. And he hates Alec.

Intrigue and romance all around, followed by a murder and attempted rape. I enjoyed the story and the setting, but the love angle wasn’t as convincing as it should have been. Still, I would read more by this author.

Review: Madame Koska

This book was received in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. My opinions, however, remain my own. Thanks for the chance to read this book!

I love the style of this cover!

Title: Madame Koska and the Imperial Brooch

Author: Ilil Arbel

Setting: London, about 1920


Meet Madame Koska—a fabulous haute couture designer and the owner of a new atelier in 1920’s London who has a knack at solving crimes that simply baffle the police.

When a priceless brooch disappears from a museum in Russia, Madame Koska is suddenly drawn into the mystery. But who is Madame Koska? And what does the missing jewel have to do with her? Find out in her first adventure!

My Review: After arriving in London, Madame Koska opens a fabulous new fashion house, catering to the many wealthy women who crave that European sophistication. Meanwhile, everyone is talking about the new Russian emigres and the rumor that a stolen brooch belonging to the late Empress has surfaced in the London underground.

This was a light, almost frothy novel with an interesting main character and what sounding like some fabulous clothing! Madame Koska has arrived in London and plans to take the fashion world by storm. Her resilient spirit made me root for her. I also loved the look at the old school fashion world, the culture of the Russian emigres and the challenges they faced. It was such a quick and fun book. The mystery was quite light, and rather unbelievable, but honestly, I still enjoyed the book so much I didn’t really notice the lack of actual mystery. I would have loved some art sketches of the clothing and jewels the author described!

This is apparently based on a character in the 20th century novelist’s Angela Thirkell’s books. I’ve never read anything by her, but it didn’t really affect my enjoyment of the book. I am curious enough about her books though that I added one to my TBR list. Apparently she is typical of many period writers about stereotypes based on races and religion, so I am a little hesitant about that, but still kind of curious.

Including a picture of some of the Russian imperial jewels just so you can drool!


Review: The Lost Spy

36264356 I was give a copy of this book by the writer in exchange for an honest review. My opinions remain my own.

Title: The Lost Spy, Slim Moran #1

Author: Kate Moira Ryan


It is Paris, 1949. 27-year-old American detective and heiress, Slim Moran, is hired by a British spymistress to find Marie-Claire, a spy long presumed dead. Slim soon realizes that scores from the last war have not been settled. She races to find out what happened to this deeply troubled lost spy because if Marie-Claire is not dead, she will be soon.

My review:

World War II is over. Slim Moran isn’t ready to return to the US or to England. She’s happy to stay with her lover in Paris, and opens an agency to find displaced persons. She hasn’t had many cases when she is contacted by someone from the SOE looking for a missing radio operator, believed to be captured and killed by the Nazis. But there’s just a possibility that she might be alive. Will Slim be able to get to the truth of what happened to Marie-Claire?

I wasn’t really crazy about this book. It started off with an interesting premise, a good strong setting, but then I got turned off by the number of times people would just sit around and talk and Slim would do nothing at all to verify their stories, to press them, to look for clues. There was a whole lot of nothing happening. I feel like maybe that’s not fair, but something about the actual detection part of mystery just didn’t work. There were too many times Slim just accepted things at face value.

The tangled relationships made it difficult to care about these characters as well. I liked the introduction of Edith Piaf as a performer and Marlene Dietrich – little touches like that really helped with the setting. But it honestly wasn’t enough to save the book for me. I would say if you are interested in the setting, to give it a try. It might also be that it’s just suffering from first book blues.

Thanks for the chance to read this one.

Reread: The Eyre Affair


I have no idea how to describe this book. It’s really weird. It’s definitely not for everyone. There are those who just love it and those who don’t get it at all. I think if you like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you would probably like this one, but not because they are anything alike. They’re just both really weird.


Great Britain circa 1985: time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. Baconians are trying to convince the world that Francis Bacon really wrote Shakespeare, there are riots between the Surrealists and Impressionists, and thousands of men are named John Milton, an homage to the real Milton and a very confusing situation for the police. Amidst all this, Acheron Hades, Third Most Wanted Man In the World, steals the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit and kills a minor character, who then disappears from every volume of the novel ever printed! But that’s just a prelude . . .

Things get much stranger after that. Only LiteraTec SpecOp Thursday Next has the training and the knowledge to track down Acheron Hades and save literature. She’s got some strange hidden skills and a unique family pedigree that can help with this. In the meantime, her return to her home town has caused her to cross paths with her former fiance, her some what half daft brother, a group of John Miltons, and a werewolf-hunting operative who calls himself Spike. This is NOTHING like anything you’ve ever read before.

I love these books. I read the whole series, at one point, then put them up. Now I find that the writer has released new books, so I’m going back to start at the beginning and I can’t wait! I think the next book, Lost in a Good Book, is my favorite in the series.

Review – Sign Off

Sign Off by Patricia McLinn, Caught Dead in Wyoming, book 1*

Reporter Elizabeth “E.M.” Daniher is way out of her comfort zone, pushed out of her high profile job and into the consumer affairs spot in a tiny affiliate in Wyoming. But even here, she sniffs out a story in the disappearance of a local deputy with an eye for the women and more than a few enemies.

I enjoyed this book. It’s a fun fish out of water story and I liked the MC. It could have been better, but I am willing to see where this series goes.

Book splurge!

I’ve been so down this week that I decided to cheer myself up by buying some stuff off my wish list. Most of them are books I’ve been wanting for a while, so there’s nothing very recent on here, but I thought I would share a couple all the same.


The Red Rope of Fate by KM Shea. Here’s the book description:

“In a land where humans and elves find it difficult to communicate, Tari—an elf—is bound to Captain Arion—a human military officer—in a ceremony designed to promote friendship between the two races. When the ceremony is over the pair discover that the impossible has happened: they can understand each other in spite of the language barrier.

Thrown into a storm of politics, Tari and Arion are put in danger by those who want humans and elves to remain separate.

To make matters worse, Tari realizes she has fallen in love with Arion, who has the emotional capabilities of a rock. As both societies dictate that an elf and a human can never be together, Tari must conceal her feelings. Unfortunately the taciturn Arion is watchful and attentive to Tari’s well being, constantly pushing her to her limits with his loyalty, friendship, and dreadfully informal habit of touching her.

If Tari and Arion survive, their tumultuous relationship will either strengthen their countries’ alliance, or cripple the human courts of nobility. The deciding factor will be Arion, and his indecipherable feelings for Tari.”

OK, this one was actually free, but I like this author’s fairy tale books a lot so I thought I would try a fantasy and see if it’s just as good. I’ll let you know!


The Body Politic by Catherine Aird. Book description here:

“What’s the value of one British engineer when stacked against the exclusive mining rights to a rare, strategically important, and extremely valuable mineral?

The British-based Anglo-Lassertan Mineral Company finds itself in hot water when one of its engineers, Alan Ottershaw, hits and kills a pedestrian while driving in a foreign country—a nation that happens to be “on the sunny side of the Iron Curtain,” with thick veins of the strategically important mineral querremitte. This particular country has draconian laws about killings, so Ottershaw is relieved when he’s whisked back to Calleshire before the foreign police can throw him in jail. But now that the Lassertan government is threatening to strip the mining company of its most valuable contract, poor Mr. Ottershaw begins to worry about his safety—and when he dies suddenly in a war reenactment, it looks like a very convenient solution to everyone’s problem.

A little too convenient, if you ask Calleshire detective C. D. Sloan, who, along with his bumbling sidekick, Constable Crosby, must investigate the death. It seems that nearly everyone in town would prefer to forget that the Lassertan debacle ever happened—but why has a man been following around the Calleshire MP dressed as the Grim Reaper? Who has been sending death threats and live scorpions via post? Detective Sloan is on the case.”

This one I bought because I love this police mystery series and I have had a lot of trouble finding a copy of this one in print. It’s finally on Kindle so I decided now was the time to get it.

What books have you brought home lately? Tell me in the comments!

Review: The Raphael Affair

Title: The Raphael Affair

Author: Iain Pears

Setting: Mostly Rome, Italy 1990s

Source: Off the shelf

“English art scholar Jonathan Argyll was amazed to find himself arrested for vagrancy-while searching for a long-lost Raphael in a tiny Roman church. Although General Bottando of the Italian National Art Theft Squad has little confidence in Jonathan’s theories, Bottando’s lovely assistant, Flavia di Stefano, is intrigued by the idea of a lost classic, and by Jonathan himself. But in the midst of the painting’s discovery and the resultant worldwide publicity, a new chain of events is set into action. First vandalism, then murder, surround the painting. And as new facts about its true nature emerge, Bottando sends Flavia and Jonathan to investigate–little knowing that the pair will be on the run for the truth… and for their very lives.”


I have read other books 📚 by this author and really enjoyed them (An Instance of the Fingerpost and The Portrait) so I had high hopes for this one. Sadly, it was a little bit of a mess. So many characters to keep straight , 3 POV and no visual way to tell them apart and some sense description that could have been incorporated into the story much better. I didn’t really like it dislike the characters either. I did enjoy the setting though. I don’t know much about art, but I like reading about it. I can’t decide if I’m going to try another book on this series or not. Maybe if I find one I will, but I don’t think I’ll look for them. Darn.

Book Review: The 31st of February

Title – The 31st of February

Author- Julian Symons

Anderson’s wife fell down the stairs three weeks ago. It wasn’t that they were close. In fact, he can’t remember now why he ever married her. But for some reason, he’s falling apart after her death. Maybe it’s because the police have been coming around asking questions. He’s been finding strange letters. And his office calendar keeps changing its date. He can’t keep his mind on his work at the advertising firm. What really happened to Valerie?

This is perhaps the book that Symons is best known for, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as some of his others. A Three Pipe Problem was better. The feeling of being unable to know whether Anderson had really killed his wife, was he going crazy or was he being persecuted – it made for a good story, but it could have been better. What saved it for me was the ending. Suddenly, I looked at everything in a different light and it was much more interesting. 3.5 stars

Currently reading

I’ve been so focused on my writing that I haven’t been reading much this month. But I do have my current books I want to tell you about!

This one is a true crime story called Goat Castle. It’s about the murder of an heiress in Mississippi. I got it from Net Galley and it sounds really good; however, I haven’t gotten far enough into it to tell for sure. Here’s the description though:

In 1932, the city of Natchez, Mississippi, reckoned with an unexpected influx of journalists and tourists as the lurid story of a local murder was splashed across headlines nationwide. Two eccentrics, Richard Dana and Octavia Dockery–known in the press as the -Wild Man- and the -Goat Woman—enlisted an African American man named George Pearls to rob their reclusive neighbor, Jennie Merrill, at her estate. During the attempted robbery, Merrill was shot and killed. The crime drew national coverage when it came to light that Dana and Dockery, the alleged murderers, shared their huge, decaying antebellum mansion with their goats and other livestock, which prompted journalists to call the estate – Goat Castle.

The second book I’m reading is by an author I first found through book club. If you follow my blog you know I’m not always a fan of our book club picks, but we read The All Girl’s Filling Stations Reunion by Fannie Flagg and it was so much fun. This one is called Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven and it is set in the fictional town of Elmwood Springs, Missouri and I’m loving it. I’m about 1/3 of the way in. It was one of my thrift store finds this month and I’m glad I picked it up. These are great books for when you’re in the mood for a light, funny read. They’d be a lot of fun on audio too.

Combining southern warmth with unabashed emotion and side-splitting hilarity, Fannie Flagg takes readers back to Elmwood Springs, Missouri, where the most unlikely and surprising experiences of a high-spirited octogenarian inspire a town to ponder the age-old question: Why are we here?



Which brings me to my last book, The Execution of Sherlock Holmes. It’s a collection of five Holmes-inspired short stories. The first one has Holmes kidnapped and awaiting his execution on “crimes” against a criminal gang. Basically it was a locked room escape story, and I really liked it. I didn’t like the second story about cracking some code – boring to listen to – but the rest have been good. I’m listening to this one in the car and it’s been very interesting.



That’s what I’m reading. I have a few I need to get to soon, including looking through MY book club pick, Daughter of a Pirate King. What are you reading? Are you liking it? Let me know!