Category: Book Reviews

Harriet Engle is an avid reader of several authors who write murder mystery series. Look for reviews highlighting each of these series, along with reviews of other books she enjoys.

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Book Review: Deacon King Kong

Deacon King Kong by James McBride

 Meet Sportcoat, Miss Izi, Deems, Hot Sausage, Sister Gee, Pots, Elephant, Hettie, Cheese, Ants, Soup, and many more characters in this delightful novel situated in the 1969 era of the projects in the Bronx. James McBride (author of The Color of Water) tells the story of a community of different races, religions, and skin colors, and how this particular community both fought with each other and supported each other through both benign and bizarre situations. The community rallied together regardless of gangsters and cops to maintain a sense of equilibrium, all the while enduring the drastic and inevitable changes that any community experiences.

McBride dispenses with political correctness as he describes the characters who live in community, artfully weaving a story that includes violence, humor, loyalty, dreams, justice, and a smidgen of romance to warm the heart.

Review by Harriet Engle

Book Reviews: The Red Tent

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Did you ever wonder what happened to Dinah, daughter of Jacob and Leah of Old Testament times? Ms. Diamant goes beyond the slaughter of the men of Shechem  and weaves the “rest of the story” of the life of Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob, a daughter who lived obscurely in the shadows of her father and brothers. Before she writes that part of the story, she also describes, in beautiful and compassionate detail, the lives of the women who occupy the Red Tent.

Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah are the four wives of Jacob. They have 12 sons, direct descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and one daughter, born to Leah. The custom of the day was for the women to congregate in the Red Tent during their days of menstruation. It was an honor and a much-anticipated time when a young girl becomes a woman and may stay in the Red Tent once every month. In a patriarchal culture, the Red Tent signified the “women-only” place to get away from the rigors of caring for the men.

According to Ms. Diamant, Dinah’s life does not end with the slaughter of the men of Shechem. She courageously and beautifully continues on to lead a productive and revered life, in spite of the murderous knee-jerk reaction of her crazy and either/or minded brothers. Dinah’s story is a tribute to the women of that culture.

Review by Harriet Engle

Book Reviews: American Dirt

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Lydia and Luca, mother and son, hide in the bathroom of their Acapulco home as they listen to the gunfire in their backyard.  Their entire family – husband/father, mother/grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins – lies dead, slaughtered by members of a powerful drug cartel. Why? Because Lydia’s husband, a journalist, dared to write about the evils of the newest drug cartel in Mexico, led by a powerful man known as The Owl.

Lydia owns and operates a small bookstore in Acapulco, catering to tourists. Lydia befriends and entertains in her bookstore a charming man who relates to her love of books. Little does she know that this man is The Owl. After her family is murdered, she realizes the depths of this man’s cruelty and violence and knows, beyond any doubts, that she and Luca will also be killed. She exercises her only option: flee to the United States.

This story, although fiction, could in reality be true in many cases. Ms. Cummins details the dangers and horrors of Lydia’s and Luca’s journey, the fears of being traced, caught, and murdered by the cartel, and also the distrust and amazement as she relates to others seeking asylum. It chronicles the perils of living in a cartel-run country and the perils of attempting to leave a cartel-run country.

Review by Harriet Engle

Mystery Series Reviews | Birds of a Feather

BIRDS OF A FEATHER
Jacqueline Winspear, Maisie Dobbs #2

Ms. Winspear presents her protagonist in England after the end of the Great War, World War I. In it, she covers the effects of war injuries, the multitudes of grief and loss that only war can produce, the relationships between family members, and her own hidden struggles with grief and relationships. Ms. Winspear goes beyond the solving of a crime. Her main character, Maisie Dobbs, as she conducts her investigations, involves the entire person: body, mind, and spirit. She makes sure her clients know before she takes on a case that she wants those involved to reconcile differences and move on.

Joseph Waite, a self-made business man, hires Maisie to find his daughter, Charlotte. Charlotte has run away before (keep in mind that Charlotte is in her early 30s), but this time is different. Maisie has no doubts that she will find this “missing” daughter; however, the deeper she delves into the situation, the more involved it gets – three other women die suspicious deaths. Maisie soon realizes that the deaths closely relate to the disappearance of Charlotte. After the police decide on a suspect and arrest him, Maisie follows her intuition and evidence she has gathered to press on and find the real murderer.

The end

Harriet Engle is an avid reader of several authors who write murder mystery series. This is the last of her weekly reviews highlighting the first two books of each of these series.

Note: If you decide to start one of the series being reviewed and wish to read the next in the series, go to www.fantasticfiction.com, type in the author, and scroll down to see which book was written next under that series. The Manheim Community Library may not have the book you want, but staff will be happy to order it for you from another library.

You can also find and request the next book in the series right from the LSLC catalog. Search the book you have just read from the search bar at the top right of manheimlibrary.org. Click on the title to open up the book information and then scroll down to the section marked “Series”. At a glance, you can see the series and where the book you searched is in the series. For series of more than 14 titles, click on the button below that says “See Full Series”. To request another title from this section, just click on the cover and it will take you to the screen to request a copy from the Library System of Lancaster County to be delivered to Manheim Community Library (or another library in the LSLC.)

Mystery Series Reviews | Knit, Purl, Die

KNIT, PURL,DIE
Anna Canadeo, Black Sheep Knitting #2

Gloria is a beautiful and wealthy woman, married once to a wealthy man, widowed, and currently married to a much younger man – a hunk. She has joined Maggie’s knitting group and meets with Dana, Suzanne, Lucy, and Phoebe Thursday evenings for dinner and knitting. Suzanne is a real estate agent, and when she hears that Gloria would like to sell her spacious house in an upscale community, she cannot believe her luck. The morning of her first showing to a young couple, who look like excellent prospects, Suzanne finds Gloria face down in her pool.

Was it an accident? Was it suicide? Was it Gloria’s former lover? This comes just three months after Maggie’s harrowing experience as a suspect in the murder of the owner of a rival yarn shop, and Maggie is very reluctant to become involved. Dana, Suzanne, and Lucy team up to try to figure things out.

Ms. Canadeo puts together an intriguing mystery that can have you guessing up to the very end.

Next (and final review):  Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

Harriet Engle is an avid reader of several authors who write murder mystery series. Look for her weekly reviews highlighting each of these series.

Note: If you decide to start one of the series being reviewed and wish to read the next in the series, go to www.fantasticfiction.com, type in the author, and scroll down to see which book was written next under that series. The Manheim Community Library may not have the book you want, but staff will be happy to order it for you from another library.

You can also find and request the next book in the series right from the LSLC catalog. Search the book you have just read from the search bar at the top right of manheimlibrary.org. Click on the title to open up the book information and then scroll down to the section marked “Series”. At a glance, you can see the series and where the book you searched is in the series. For series of more than 14 titles, click on the button below that says “See Full Series”. To request another title from this section, just click on the cover and it will take you to the screen to request a copy from the Library System of Lancaster County to be delivered to Manheim Community Library (or another library in the LSLC.)

Mystery Series Reviews | Death in a Strange Country

DEATH IN A STRANGE COUNTRY
Donna Leon, Guido Brunetti #2

Some things, no matter how great a detective you are, cannot be fixed. Guido Brunetti set out to solve a murder and a major theft, and in the process discovered something so fierce, brutal, and steeped in power, greed, and violent that it made him despair.

Ms. Leon, in this her second novel in the series, delves deeply into the problems of wealth, ruthlessness, and power which will stop at nothing to maintain the elitist and smug status quo. As a consequence, four people die and many others find themselves in precarious and dangerous positions. Quite honestly, this may be a work of fiction; however, it also could be all too real.

Next:   Knit, Purl, Die by Anne Canadeo

 

Harriet Engle is an avid reader of several authors who write murder mystery series. Look for her weekly reviews highlighting each of these series.

Note: If you decide to start one of the series being reviewed and wish to read the next in the series, go to www.fantasticfiction.com, type in the author, and scroll down to see which book was written next under that series. The Manheim Community Library may not have the book you want, but staff will be happy to order it for you from another library.

You can also find and request the next book in the series right from the LSLC catalog. Search the book you have just read from the search bar at the top right of manheimlibrary.org. Click on the title to open up the book information and then scroll down to the section marked “Series”. At a glance, you can see the series and where the book you searched is in the series. For series of more than 14 titles, click on the button below that says “See Full Series”. To request another title from this section, just click on the cover and it will take you to the screen to request a copy from the Library System of Lancaster County to be delivered to Manheim Community Library (or another library in the LSLC.)

Mystery Series Reviews | B is for Burglar

B IS FOR BURGLAR
Sue Grafton, Kinsey Millhone #2

Kinsey Millhone, just two weeks after the fatal shooting of her attacker, takes on a missing person case. Of course, this would not be a murder mystery unless someone shows up murdered, and Kinsey digs deep into the situation to find out what happened to that missing person. The web of intrigue twists and turns with great drama, and the who-dun-its turn up to be the least expected, which, of course, makes it a good murder mystery.

Ms. Grafton takes Kinsey to Florida twice, picking up an elderly wanna-be detective along the way, but much of the action takes place in Santa Teresa, California. While the private investigator protagonist turns over many stones and looks into the lives of anyone connected to the missing person, some of whom are truthful but many more are not, she also must deal with the aftermath of the trauma of her previous big case.

Up next:  Death in a Strange Country by Donna Leon

Harriet Engle is an avid reader of several authors who write murder mystery series. Look for her weekly reviews highlighting each of these series.

Note: If you decide to start one of the series being reviewed and wish to read the next in the series, go to www.fantasticfiction.com, type in the author, and scroll down to see which book was written next under that series. The Manheim Community Library may not have the book you want, but staff will be happy to order it for you from another library.

You can also find and request the next book in the series right from the LSLC catalog. Search the book you have just read from the search bar at the top right of manheimlibrary.org. Click on the title to open up the book information and then scroll down to the section marked “Series”. At a glance, you can see the series and where the book you searched is in the series. For series of more than 14 titles, click on the button below that says “See Full Series”. To request another title from this section, just click on the cover and it will take you to the screen to request a copy from the Library System of Lancaster County to be delivered to Manheim Community Library (or another library in the LSLC.)

Mystery Series Reviews | Callander Square

CALLANDER SQUARE
Anne Perry, Charlotte and Thomas Pitt #2

In London, England, Anne Perry deftly points out the major differences, once again, between classes and gender. The elite believe they are above the law, however, the law, several classes below the elite, eventually brings the matter of class power to a more equal standing. Men who believe and act as if they are superior to women find themselves perpetrators of most hideous crimes. Ms. Perry does this with her usual descriptive body language and thought processes.

The aristocrats on Callander Square live and behave as if they are above reproach, above criticism, and above any wrong doing. When two gardeners assigned the task of planting a bush discover two very small bodies, one recent and one buried some years ago, and report this to the police, the smug world of the rich upper class becomes upended. The thin veneer of the power men think they have begins to shatter, and the women discover that they, little by little, can inch closer to the equality they deserve.

Thomas Pitt finds himself, as detective, interrogating both men and women and both rich and poor to discover who brought the lives of these two infants to a quick end. Charlotte Pitt and her sister Emily set  out to clandestinely assist Pitt in his investigations. Before the conclusion of the investigation and the discovery of a man seemingly above reproach, several others meet their ends.

Up next:  B is for Burglar by Sue Grafton

Harriet Engle is an avid reader of several authors who write murder mystery series. Look for her weekly reviews highlighting each of these series.

Note: If you decide to start one of the series being reviewed and wish to read the next in the series, go to www.fantasticfiction.com, type in the author, and scroll down to see which book was written next under that series. The Manheim Community Library may not have the book you want, but staff will be happy to order it for you from another library.

You can also find and request the next book in the series right from the LSLC catalog. Search the book you have just read from the search bar at the top right of manheimlibrary.org. Click on the title to open up the book information and then scroll down to the section marked “Series”. At a glance, you can see the series and where the book you searched is in the series. For series of more than 14 titles, click on the button below that says “See Full Series”. To request another title from this section, just click on the cover and it will take you to the screen to request a copy from the Library System of Lancaster County to be delivered to Manheim Community Library (or another library in the LSLC.)

Mystery Series Reviews | Legal Tender

LEGAL TENDER
Lisa Scottoline, Rosato & Associates #2

Bennie Rosato and her law partner Mark Biscardi ran a very efficient and effective “boutique” law firm in Philadelphia until Mark decided to break off and start his own firm. When Mark turns up murdered, Bennie is the first and prime suspect. She runs. Then two more murders take place, and Bennie fits the modus operandi for both, and after each murder, Bennie runs. In her mind, the only way out of this mess is to find out who really murdered Mark.

Ms. Scottoline weaves a twisted tale of events that will, of course, take Bennie Rosato through sleepless nights, police chases, clandestine meetings with her defense lawyer, the horrid discovery of the third murder, rowing on the Schuylkill River at midnight, and eventually to the conclusion of Bennie’s investigation of the clever set up intended to put her in prison for life. Through all of that, we cannot forget Bennie’s mother, brought back to reality with the use of innovative treatments.

Next up: Callander Square by Anne Perry

Harriet Engle is an avid reader of several authors who write murder mystery series. Look for her weekly reviews highlighting each of these series.

Note: If you decide to start one of the series being reviewed and wish to read the next in the series, go to www.fantasticfiction.com, type in the author, and scroll down to see which book was written next under that series. The Manheim Community Library may not have the book you want, but staff will be happy to order it for you from another library.

You can also find and request the next book in the series right from the LSLC catalog. Search the book you have just read from the search bar at the top right of manheimlibrary.org. Click on the title to open up the book information and then scroll down to the section marked “Series”. At a glance, you can see the series and where the book you searched is in the series. For series of more than 14 titles, click on the button below that says “See Full Series”. To request another title from this section, just click on the cover and it will take you to the screen to request a copy from the Library System of Lancaster County to be delivered to Manheim Community Library (or another library in the LSLC.)

Mystery Series Reviews | Death Without Company

DEATH WITHOUT COMPANY
Craig Johnson, Longmire #2

Barely recovering from the trauma and losses of the last crime spree in Absaroka County, Walt Longmire faces yet another challenge that turns out to be a quagmire of hate, greed, ancient dark history, and the unnecessary and tragic deaths of too many people. In the middle of this twisted web, he hires another deputy, Santiago Saizarbitoria, and comes close to losing his own life. Both Dog and Henry Standing Bear are shot, and Walt’s daughter, Cady, visits from Philadelphia, hardly having a chance to spend time with her Dad.

Craig Johnson brings us back to Wyoming from Minnesota, an author who also writes about the life of Native Americans in “modern” times. In that one county in Wyoming, Johnson covers a huge amount of “relational territory” as he spins this story that involves his mentor, Lucian Connally, and Lucian’s precious but long lost love.

Up next:  Legal Tender, by Lisa Scottoline

Harriet Engle is an avid reader of several authors who write murder mystery series. Look for her weekly reviews highlighting each of these series.

Note: If you decide to start one of the series being reviewed and wish to read the next in the series, go to www.fantasticfiction.com, type in the author, and scroll down to see which book was written next under that series. The Manheim Community Library may not have the book you want, but staff will be happy to order it for you from another library.

You can also find and request the next book in the series right from the LSLC catalog. Search the book you have just read from the search bar at the top right of manheimlibrary.org. Click on the title to open up the book information and then scroll down to the section marked “Series”. At a glance, you can see the series and where the book you searched is in the series. For series of more than 14 titles, click on the button below that says “See Full Series”. To request another title from this section, just click on the cover and it will take you to the screen to request a copy from the Library System of Lancaster County to be delivered to Manheim Community Library (or another library in the LSLC.)