Book Notes Review: Death in the Details by Katie Tietjen

Thanks to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for providing an ecopy of the book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

 

Book cover of woman's gloved hands holding a miniature chair

 

Death in the Details
by Katie Tietjen

Publisher’s Summary

 

Inspired by the real-life mother of forensic science, Frances Glessner Lee, and featuring a whip-smart, intrepid sleuth in post-WWII Vermont, this debut historical mystery will appeal to fans of Victoria Thompson and Rhys Bowen.

Maple Bishop is ready to put WWII and the grief of losing her husband, Bill, behind her. But when she discovers that Bill left her penniless, Maple realizes she could lose her Vermont home next and sets out to make money the only way she knows how: by selling her intricately crafted dollhouses. Business is off to a good start—until Maple discovers her first customer dead, his body hanging precariously in his own barn.

Something about the supposed suicide rubs Maple the wrong way, but local authorities brush off her concerns. Determined to help them see “what’s big in what’s small,” Maple turns to what she knows best, painstakingly recreating the gruesome scene in miniature: death in a nutshell.

With the help of a rookie officer named Kenny, Maple uses her macabre miniature to dig into the dark undercurrents of her sleepy town, where everyone seems to have a secret—and a grudge. But when her nosy neighbor goes missing and she herself becomes a suspect, it’ll be up to Maple to find the devil in the details—and put him behind bars.

Drawing inspiration from true crime and offering readers a smartly plotted puzzle of a mystery, Death in the Details is a stunning series debut.

 

My Thoughts

Characters

I liked the characters-Mapel Bishop is the main character. She’s a widow that finds out her husband’s death leaves her destitute. A lawyer by training, she can’t find a job in her field because she’s a woman (the year is 1946), living in a small town in Vermont. She’s determined to make it on her own, but the only thing she can do is build dollhouses and the miniatures to make them lifelike. Then she discovers a body hanging from the rafters. Tiny details bother her, and she can’t ignore them because Maple has a strong sense of right and wrong, and a strong desire to see justice done. She’s a strong female character with a history of defeating the odds. She also has a prickly side to her, and it constantly alienates those around her, except for Charlotte.

Charlotte is her best friend. She has her hands full with three boys, and running diner with her husband, but she’s always there for Maple. Ginger Comstock is a thorn in Maple’s side.

Mystery

Maple finds a body hanging in a barn when she goes to deliver a dollhouse. She disagrees with the coroner’s ruling of suicide because small details bother her. She’s determined to find the truth. Kenny, one of the deputies, becomes her ally to find out the truth. The mystery kept me guessing until the end.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed reading Death in the Details. The characters are lively and engaging.
Mapel Bishop, the main character, grows and changes throughout the novel. Watching her grow from a widow with what seemed to be insurmountable obstacles to a self-confident business owner. I was also drawn in by Mapel’s hobby of building dollhouses and furnishing them with miniatures she constructs herself. I’ve always found dollhouses and miniatures interesting, and this book didn’t disappoint. There is also humor throughout the book, which is always a plus.

The mystery kept me guessing throughout the book. The historical details also drew me into the novel. Overall, this debut novel is well-written, with complex characters, dollhouses and miniatures, and a mystery that kept me guessing until the reveal. I ordered a physical copy, and if there are more in this series, I will be reading them.
5/5 stars.

Publishing Info

Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Hardcover | $29.99
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Pub date: Apr 09, 2024
Pages: 288

ISBN 9781639107186

Book Notes Review “The Tainted Cup” by Robert Jackson Bennett

Thanks to Netgalley and Ballentine Publishing for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

 

Book cover for The Tainted Cup

 

The Tainted Cup
by Robert Jackson Bennett

 

Summary

A Holmes and Watson–style detective duo take the stage in this fantasy with a mystery twist, from the Edgar-winning, multiple Hugo-nominated Robert Jackson Bennett

“Superbly blends mystery and fantasy . . . Give me more of this world and these characters ASAP!”—#1 New York Timesbestselling author Meg Gardiner

In Daretana’s greatest mansion, a high imperial officer lies dead—killed, to all appearances, when a tree erupted from his body. Even here at the Empire’s borders, where contagions abound and the blood of the leviathans works strange magical changes, it’s a death both terrifying and impossible.
Assigned to investigate is Ana Dolabra, a detective whose reputation for brilliance is matched only by her eccentricities. Rumor has it that she wears a blindfold at all times, and that she can solve impossible cases without even stepping outside the walls of her home.
At her side is her new assistant, Dinios Kol, magically altered in ways that make him the perfect aide to Ana’s brilliance. Din is at turns scandalized, perplexed, and utterly infuriated by his new superior—but as the case unfolds and he watches Ana’s mind leap from one startling deduction to the next, he must admit that she is, indeed, the Empire’s greatest detective.
As the two close in on a mastermind and uncover a scheme that threatens the Empire itself, Din realizes he’s barely begun to assemble the puzzle that is Ana Dolabra—and wonders how long he’ll be able to keep his own secrets safe from her piercing intellect.
By an “endlessly inventive” (Vulture) author with a “wicked sense of humor” (NPR), The Tainted Cup mixes the charms of detective fiction with brilliant world-building to deliver a fiendishly clever mystery that’s at once instantly recognizable and thrillingly new.

Thoughts

Ana and Din are Bennett’s take on the Holmes/Watson relationship with Ana in Sherlock’s role and Din’s in Watson’s and it’s a pairing that works really, really well. Din, Ana’s new assistant, is an engraver, meaning he’s been altered to remember everything, much like Sherlock’s own mind. But he lacks the ability, and the knowledge, to put what he sees together. (Not like Sherlock) That’s Ada’s job. She takes his detailed reports and, at a rapid speed, can see patterns and connections that evade everyone else. Ada knows how to push Din’s buttons and takes great delight in doing so. She’s a strong character, but also morally grey at times in her pursuit of justice.
Din is an engraver, but also someone who has much to learn about himself. He remembers everything he sees and hears. As the story plays out, it becomes clear he’s more than an engraver. And that he harbors a secret that could cost him everything.
The murder mystery is well-written. The initial murder sets off a chain reaction with horrific unintended consequences. Even though the murders may be solved, what they set in motion may be impossible to stop.
It took me a bit to get into this book, but once I settled in, I had trouble putting it down. The ending was satisfying.

4/5 stars.

Read an excerpt

Publishing Info

Genre: Epic Fantasy, Murder Mystery
ISBN 9781984820709
Release Date: Feb. 6

 

 

 

 

 

Book Notes: Lost Hours by Paige Shelton

Lost Hours
Book Five in the Alaska Wild series
by Paige Shelton

Beth’s past collides with her present when a kidnap victim arrives in Benedict.

Summary

In this fifth book in Paige Shelton’s Alaska Wild series, readers return to Benedict, Alaska, an isolated town on the edge of the Alaskan wilderness. Beth Rivers has made Benedict her home to recover from a violent kidnapping months earlier. She’s decided to take a boat tour to see glaciers, but before she and her “man-friend” Tex can reach their destination the tour is diverted by a woman in distress on the shore of one of the islands in the area. She’s covered in blood and it’s obvious she needs help. Once she’s brought aboard, Beth finds out Sadie Milbourn, the rescued woman, is a kidnap victim. Her story is similar to Beth’s and it’s through that similar experience the two women establish common ground. Sadie reveals to Beth that Sadie is in witness protection and has lived in Juneau for the last six years. As the investigation into Sadie’s case continues, more questions than answers arise. Another kidnapping takes place. Beth suspects the two cases are connected but can’t find the answers she needs.

Lost Hours-Likes

The characters. Benedict is a small, isolated town on the edge of the Alaskan wilderness. The only ways in or out are either plane or ferry. Internet is spotty at best and any emergency help is hours, if not days, away. Because of the isolation, the people in and around Benedict are self-sufficient, but also ready to help anyone needing it. Beth’s estranged father has also moved to Benedict, and she’s still trying to figure out what kind of relationship to have with him. The relationships are complicated, changing, and greatly influenced by the setting.
The setting. The Alaskan wilderness. It’s beautiful but potentially deadly. Alaska is one of my favorite places, ever. (At least in the summer. I haven’t experienced winter. Yet.)

The mystery. The twists and turns in Lost Hours kept me on my toes and the ending was one I didn’t see coming. Well-done.

Lost Hours-dislike

The plot line that has been running through the series took a predicable turn. As I read the book, my hope was that particular plot point wouldn’t come into play, but it did, and I was disappointed.

Recommendation

I’ve read all the books in the series, usually ordering them as soon the pre-orders are available. The mysteries keep me guessing, the Alaskan setting and characters draw me into the books, the covers are gorgeous, and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.
If you haven’t read any of the other books in the series (Thin Ice, Cold Wind, Dark Night, and Winter’s End) you can read this as a stand-alone, but I would recommend starting with Thin Ice and working your way through the series.
4/5 stars.

 

Publishing Info

Imprint: Minotaur Books
Pub date: 12/5/2023
ISBN: 9781250846617
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 288

Thanks to #NetGalley and #StMartinsPress for a copy of #LostHours. All opinions are my own.

Book Notes Review: I Heard A Fly Buzz When I Died

I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died by Amanda Flower

I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died

 

Book 2 in the Emily Dickinson Mystery series
By Amanda Flower

The way Amanda Flower writes it, before Emily Dickinson was a published poet, she was an amateur sleuth, solving murders in her hometown of Amherst, Massachusetts, with her sometimes reluctant maid, Willa Noble.

Summary

In I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died, the murder victim is Luther Howard, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s personal secretary. The eminent poet was invited to Amherst by Susan Dickinson, Emily’s dear friend and her brother, Austin’s, new wife. Things were going well with the visit; Emerson was a popular speaker with people flocking to hear his talks. Dinners were held at Austin and Susan’s new home, a wedding present from his parents. At dinner one night, Luther excused himself. He was acting oddly and was later found dead in the gardens at Emily’s father’s house, next door to Austin’s home.
When a suspect is arrested, Emily is certain the police have the wrong man. Emily and Willa investigate on their own and risk becoming a murderer’s next target.

My Thoughts

Even though the books are in the Emily Dickinson Mystery series, Emily isn’t the point of view character. Willa Noble, Emily’s maid, is the one telling the story, and through her eyes there is more to the books than just the mystery. The series is set in the years before the Civil War and class distinctions are firmly rooted in society. Maids, like Willa, are part of the working class and aren’t friends with their wealthy employers.
Emily refuses to acknowledge this distinction, even though the rest of her family and her friends don’t hesitate to remind Willa of her place. It is a friendship that frequently places Willa in awkward positions, which Emily doesn’t see. But Willa can also talk to people that, because of the class division, wouldn’t speak freely to Emily. Without Willa, Emily couldn’t solve any mysteries.
I also like the different, albeit fictional, take on Emily Dickinson. She is a woman before her time-independent, rejecting social expectations of women’s roles and class distinctions. This independent streak drives Emily to take the steps she does in order to solve whatever mystery she’s involved in. There were plenty of viable suspects for Emily to deal with and that kept me guessing the murderer’s identity up until the reveal. The killer was one I didn’t see coming.
I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died is a stellar addition to the Emily Dickinson Mystery series.

Thanks to #NetGalley and #StMartinsPress #MinotaurBooks for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

Publishing Information

Penguin Random House 
Paperback $17.00
Nov 14, 2023
ISBN 9780593336960

 

Book Notes West Heart Kill

West Heart Kill

by Dann McDorman

ABOUT WEST HEART KILL

LOOKING FOR AN ANYTHING-BUT-ORDINARY WHODUNIT? • Welcome to the West Heart country club. Where the drinks are neat but behind closed doors . . . things can get messy. Where upright citizens are deemed downright boring. Where the only missing piece of the puzzle is you, dear reader.

A unique and irresistible murder mystery set at a remote hunting lodge where everyone is a suspect, including the erratic detective on the scenea remarkable debut that gleefully upends the rules of the genre.

An isolated hunt club. A raging storm. Three corpses, discovered within four days. A cast of monied, scheming, unfaithful characters.

When private detective Adam McAnnis joins an old college friend for the Bicentennial weekend at the exclusive West Heart club in upstate New York, he finds himself among a set of not-entirely-friendly strangers. Then the body of one of the members is found at the lake’s edge; hours later, a major storm hits. By the time power is restored on Sunday, two more people will be dead . . .

My Thoughts on West Heart Kill

This book isn’t what I expected, and that isn’t a good thing.

First, this isn’t a murder mystery in the traditional sense, which makes this book unique but also is its weakness. The book concentrates on how a murder mystery is written, and the mystery itself is secondary. Various points of view are also employed in the book-first person, third person, and what really put me out of the story-second person.  Second person is used to tell the reader what assumptions the reader is making and when those assumptions were wrong, it really disrupted what was already a complicated read. Another format used in the book was that of a play. Personally, I don’t like reading plays to begin with. The format was used to make the reader a participant in trying to solve, at this point, multiple murders, but it added another layer of difficulty in trying to keep straight what was going on.

A multiple number of identical characters also made for a difficult read. There is really nothing to distinguish one from another—they are all unhappy, can’t cope without alcohol or drugs or both, cheat on their spouses, and are just difficult to keep straight. I really didn’t care about any of them.

-Recommendation

This book wasn’t for me, but if it sounds like something you might enjoy, give it a try, maybe by borrowing a copy from the library or a friend.

Thanks to #NetGalley and Knopf, Pantheon, Vintage, and Anchor, for providing a copy of the book. All opinions are my own.

Publishing Information
Hardcover | $28.00
Published by Knopf
Oct 24, 2023 | 288 Pages | 6-1/8 x 9-1/4| ISBN 9780593537572