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: To Slip the Bonds of Earth by Amanda Flower

Disclaimer: Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

 

 

Book Cover for To Slip the Bonds of Earth

To Slip the Bonds of Earth

A Riveting Mystery Based On a True History
by Amanda Flower

 

From the Publisher

While not as famous as her older siblings Wilbur and Orville, the celebrated inventors of flight, Katharine Wright is equally inventive – especially when it comes to solving crimes – in USA Today bestselling author Amanda Flower’s radiant new historical mystery series inspired by the real sister of the Wright Brothers.


December 1903: While Wilbur and Orville Wright’s flying machine is quite literally taking off in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina with its historic fifty-seven second flight, their sister Katharine is back home in Dayton, Ohio, running the bicycle shop, teaching Latin, and looking after the family. A Latin teacher and suffragette, Katharine is fiercely independent, intellectual, and the only Wright sibling to finish college. But at twenty-nine, she’s frustrated by the gender inequality in academia and is looking for a new challenge. She never suspects it will be sleuthing…

Returning home to Dayton, Wilbur and Orville accept an invitation to a friend’s party. Nervous about leaving their as-yet-unpatented flyer plans unattended, Wilbur decides to bring them to the festivities . . . where they are stolen right out from under his nose. As always, it’s Katharine’s job to problem solve—and in this case, crime-solve.

As she sets out to uncover the thief among their circle of friends, Katharine soon gets more than she bargained for: She finds her number one suspect dead with a letter opener lodged in his chest. It seems the patent is the least of her brothers’ worries. They have a far more earthbound concern—prison. Now Katharine will have to keep her feet on the ground and put all her skills to work to make sure Wilbur and Orville are free to fly another day.

My Thoughts

Characters

Katharine Wright is the younger sister of Wilbur and Orville Wright. In To Slip the Bonds of Earth, Flower brings this little-known figure to life in this lively historical mystery. Katharine is a Greek teacher in Dayton’s Steele High School, runs the home she shares with her brothers and widowed father, and oversees her brothers’ bicycle shop when they are in Kitty Hawk working on their flying experiments. She’s an intelligent, independent woman. She isn’t afraid to speak her mind and is often frustrated by the constraints placed on her because she is a woman. I love this character.

Mystery

Word is out that the Wright Brothers have achieved the unthinkable-they’ve flown an airplane. Now competitors want to get their hands on brothers’ flight plans before they are patented. Wilbur takes them to a party rather than leave them unattended at home, where they are stolen. When Katharine’s chief suspect is found murdered, it is up to her to solve the case, recover the plans, and clear her brother’s name. There are plenty of viable suspects, legitimate motives, but only one solution.

Amanda’s website

 

Publishing Info

Publisher: Kensington
Genres: Fiction/Mystery & Detective/Historical
Pages: 288
On Sale: 03/26/24
ISBN: 9781496747662

Book Notes Review-The Warm Hands of Ghosts by

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

 

Book cover for The Warm Hands of Ghosts. Two white hands holding a red poppy.

 

The Warm Hands of Ghosts
by Katherine Arden

Summary

During the Great War, a combat nurse searches for her brother, believed dead in the trenches despite eerie signs that suggest otherwise, in this hauntingly beautiful historical novel with a speculative twist, from the New York Times bestselling author of The Bear and the Nightingale.

 

January 1918. Laura Iven was a revered field nurse until she was wounded and discharged from the medical corps, leaving behind a brother still fighting in Flanders. Now home in Halifax, Canada, Laura receives word of Freddie’s death in combat, along with his personal effects—but something doesn’t make sense. Determined to uncover the truth, Laura returns to Belgium as a volunteer at a private hospital, where she soon hears whispers about haunted trenches and a strange hotelier whose wine gives soldiers the gift of oblivion. Could Freddie have escaped the battlefield, only to fall prey to something—or someone—else?

November 1917. Freddie Iven awakens after an explosion to find himself trapped in an overturned pillbox with a wounded enemy soldier, a German by the name of Hans Winter. Against all odds, the two form an alliance and succeed in clawing their way out. Unable to bear the thought of returning to the killing fields, especially on opposite sides, they take refuge with a mysterious man who seems to have the power to make the hellscape of the trenches disappear.

As shells rain down on Flanders and ghosts move among those yet living, Laura’s and Freddie’s deepest traumas are reawakened. Now they must decide whether their world is worth salvaging–or better left behind entirely.

 

Listen to a sample or read an excerpt

My Thoughts

The Warm Hands of Ghosts is a mix of historical fiction, mystery, and supernatural elements. I loved this book.
The story starts in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in January 1918.  A ship laden with explosives has blown up in the harbor, destroying much of Halifax, and killing Laura Iven’s parents. Laura is a registered nurse, sent home from the military hospitals of World War I after suffering a severe leg injury.

While nursing the injured from the explosion, injuries reminiscent of the wounded she left behind in Belgium, a crate arrives from Flanders with her brother Freddie’s belongings. But she’s not received a death notice from the army. Since her brother is the only member of her family left, Laura returns as a civilian nurse to the war and its hospitals to search for her brother.

Laura’s search will take her beyond the physical lines of the war. In a place with so much death, the demarcation between the physical world and the supernatural blurs. Faland inhabits this no-man’s-land. He comes and goes as he pleases, preying on the PTSD of soldiers at war. Once a man is in Faland’s grip, he never wants to leave. If Laura finds physically finds Freddie, will she still lose him to his memories?

The research Arden put into this novel is evident because I was immersed in post-explosion Halifax, the military hospitals, and the horrors of trench warfare. I was drawn to Laura-her commitment to her patients, her bravery at returning to the front, her determination to find Freddie and bring him home. Freddie is very much a soldier caught up in a war he doesn’t understand. Surrounded by death and destruction, he finds the only way to survive is trust a German soldier, the very person he was sent overseas to kill. Freddie’s battle is as much a mental war as a physical one, at a time when soldiers suffering from the mental strains of war were left on their own.
The Warm Hands of Ghosts is a well-written historical novel that also combines elements of mystery (is Freddie dead or alive?) and the supernatural (who or what is Faland?) Arden’s newest novel has earned a place on my bookshelf.

5/5 stars.

Publishing Information
Publisher: PenguinRandomHouse
Genre: Fantasy
Pub Date: Feb 13
ISBN 9780593128251

 

Book Notes Review: The Lost Dresses of Italy by M. A. Mclaughlin

Back of woman in blue dress walking down Italian street. book cover for The Lost Dresses of Italy

The Lost Dresses of Italy
by M. A. Mclaughlin

The Lost Dresses of Italy is a historical fiction book and a murder mystery. The story is told in two points of view and with two timelines. In October 1947, widow Marianne Baxter, a textile historian, travels to Italy to help prepare three dresses for an exhibit. The dresses were owned by Christina Rossetti and found in a trunk in a museum undergoing restoration. In 1865, Christina Rossetti is almost late to a meeting with a potential donor. Christina volunteers at a halfway house for women, and the potential donor had contacted her. It turns out the donor is an old friend of her father’s from their revolutionary days in Italy.  He will meet her again in Italy during a trip planned by several members of Christina’s family. The trips for both women, Marianne in 1947 and Christina in 1865, become far more than they initially planned. Both trips involve mysteries, deception, and betrayal.
As I read, I found myself looking up information about Rossetti because the book piqued my interest. The author also starts each chapter with the beginning lines from Monna Innominata: A Sonnet of Sonnets, written by Rossetti. There are several mysteries in the book. The book opens with a murder that is still unsolved. No one knows how Christian Rossetti’s expensive dresses ended up in Italy; her home was in London. It seems these two events are unrelated, but as the story continues, the answer to smaller mysteries leads to bigger ones. I enjoyed reading this book. Recommended.

Thanks to #NetGalley for providing a free copy of #TheLostDresses in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

Publishing Info:
Publisher: Alcove Press
Genres: General adult fiction, historical fiction
Pages: 304
ISBN: 9781639105649
Pub date: Feb. 6, 2024