find your way around

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March came in like a lamb here in Kentucky, bringing with it daffodils and springlike temperatures. And while a second taste of winter in March (or even April!) isn’t out of the question, hopefully spring is here to stay. With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, it’s a great time to curl up with a cupán tae and a good mystery. All you need is the perfect book to transport you to the Emerald Isle.

In this list. I’ve gathered six mysteries with Irish settings that range from cozy to gritty, so you’re sure to find something that will suit your taste. Sláinte!

Buried in a Bog by Sheila Connolly

In the first of the County Cork Mysteries by the late Sheila Connolly, Maura Donovan leaves Boston to fulfill her grandmother’s dying wish. She asked Maura to travel to Ireland to inform those she left behind years ago of her death. But Maura never expected to find herself taking a job at the local pub and investigating a murder. If you’re looking for a fun, cozy Irish village mystery, Buried in a Bog is a great choice. And if you find yourself eager to spend some more time with the inhabitants of Leap, there are 8 more stories waiting for you.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

This one falls more under the heading of thriller than mystery, but I really enjoyed it. Perhaps not a surprise, as it’s received many comparisons to the works of Agatha Christie. On an isolated island off the coast of Ireland, a magazine publisher and a rising television star are about to get married, and everyone want to be on the guest list for their glitzy wedding. But with poor cell service, bad weather, and rough seas isolating the party from the mainland, it’s almost inevitable that guests are going to start dropping dead. If you enjoy modern settings and characters who aren’t always likeable, The Guest List is a good fit for you.

No Strangers Here by Carlene O’Connor

Carlene O’Connor is perhaps best known for her cozy County Cork Mysteries, which began with Murder in an Irish Village. No Strangers Here is the first installment in her new County Kerry mystery series. I couldn’t wait to read it when I saw it was set in Dingle, Ireland, where I spent a week a few years ago. It did not disappoint—I thoroughly enjoyed picking out all the details I remembered from my visit. But you don’t have to have visited Dingle to enjoy No Strangers Here, because it has an absorbing story and interesting characters. This series is a little less cozy than the County Cork series, but I wouldn’t call it dark at all. Looking for a more traditional style mystery story? This one would be perfect for you.

In the Woods by Tana French

In the Woods is the book that launched Tana French to fame and kicked off her Dublin Murder Squad series, which has since been made into a TV show. The book is very well written, but be aware that it is on the grittier side and if you aren’t a fan of unresolved questions, I’d steer clear. (That’s the one thing about this book that frustrated me.) Otherwise, it’s an excellent story with plenty of atmosphere and complex characters. Enjoy darker stories with ambiguous endings? This would be a good choice for you.

Haunted Ground by Erin Hart

Haunted Ground is also the first book in a series, this one about an Irish archaeologist and an American pathologist. The two join forces after farmers cutting turf in a peat bog discover the head of a young woman, so perfectly preserved it’s difficult to tell if she was killed hundreds of years ago or much more recently. (Bodies turning up in bogs seems to be a recurring theme in Irish-set mysteries.) As the archaeologist and pathologist attempt to uncover the woman’s identity, it begins to look as though there is a connection to a recent local disappearance. Looking for mystery, suspense, and a little romance? This is your book.

Himself by Jess Kidd

This recommendation comes via my sister-in-law’s mother, whose taste in books is always excellent, and it’s on my TBR list for this month. According to the Daily Express, it is a darkly comic tale of murder, intrigue, haunting and illegitimacy . . . wickedly funny. Himself is the story of a man who, after being abandoned at an orphanage as a baby, decides to return to the town where he was born in search of the truth about his past, But his arrival shakes up the town and not everyone is pleased to see him or willing to tell him the truth.

I hope you find something on this list to get you in the spirit for St. Patrick’s Day! Looking for more St. Patrick’s Day inspiration? Check out this free wallpaper I shared a few years ago. If you need me, I’ll be curled up with a cup of Barry’s tea and Himself.

How about you? Do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?
What is your favorite St. Patrick’s Day tradition?

6 mysteries with Irish settings for St. Patrick's Day

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As summer draws to a close, the lake beckons. We hurry to squeeze in one more weekend before the school year starts and autumn cools the water. The lake is also the perfect place to sink into a good mystery. The still, deep water; the dark, encircling forest; the hush that falls at twilight—it’s easy to imagine what might lurk just out of sight.

We’ve spent the majority of our summer weekends since the pandemic hit at the Land Between the Lakes, a recreation area between Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake. One of my favorite things to do, while the rest of my family zips around in my dad’s boat, is to take a kayak and explore the inlets around our usual campsite. There, the busy sounds of the lake fade, as if I’m the only one for miles. I’ve seen herons, raccoons, turtles, and deer as I paddle along the shore. The peaceful stillness can be misleading, though.

Kentucky Lake is a man-made lake, formed by the damming of the Tennessee River in 1944. Before the valley was flooded, the people living there were forced to relocate, leaving homes, farms, and businesses behind. The remains of those structures now sit at the bottom of the lake. Most of the cemeteries were relocated, but there were a few families who refused to relocate their loved ones, so there are some graves down there as well.

In fact, when the lake level is lowered to what is called winter pool, a piece of land known locally as Cemetery Island emerges. You can pull a boat right up to it and walk around on the small bit of land. There were five graves that weren’t relocated from this particular cemetery, and some of the markers remain, including a tall narrow one that frequently gets knocked over by boaters in the summer when it is completely submerged.

When you hear stories like that, suddenly the lake can seem as eerie as it is beautiful. Next time you’re relaxing by the water, remember that there might be more to that lake than meets the eye, as these 8 mysteries with lakeside settings illustrate.

Mirror Lake by Juneau Black

This is the third novel in the Shady Hollow series by Juneau Black (the pen name of author team Jocelyn Cole and Sharon Nagel). The village of Shady Hollow, a close-knit community inhabited by a variety of woodland creatures, is as cozy a setting as you could hope for. It’s The Wind in the Willows meets Murder, She Wrote, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

From Vera the fox reporter, to Lenore the raven bookshop owner, to Lefty the thieving raccoon, the characters are charming and funny. Mirror Lake is also set in autumn, so a perfect choice for the change in season that’s coming. While I think you could read the series in any order and still understand what’s going on, I’d recommend reading them in order.

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

This book is set in a defunct camp on the shore of a lake in the Adirondack Mountains where, fifteen years before the novel opens, three teenage girls disappeared, never to be seen again. Emma, the last one to see them alive, has spent the intervening years tortured by the belief that she should have done more to prevent their disappearance and painting dark forests that conceal three figures in white dresses. When the owner of the camp invites her back, this time as an instructor, Emma decides it’s time to face her past.

I’ll Never Tell by Catherine McKenzie

Another lakeside camp setting with an unsolved crime in the past. Instead of a disappearance, Camp Macaw was the scene of a brutal murder. The owners of the camp have died, leaving a will that requires their adult children to return to the camp and figure out what happened the night Amanda Holmes died. But even if they can unravel the mystery and claim their inheritance, the five can’t seem to agree on what to do with the property once it’s theirs.

I’ll Never Tell is slightly less eerie than The Last Time I Lied, and the characters are less likable, but that is by design and I still enjoyed the book.

The Vanishing by Wendy Webb

Wendy Webb’s niche is big, old, haunted houses on the Great Lakes. I love a good ghost story, and her books always deliver. This was the first one I read and remains one of my favorites.

Julia Bishop has just been widowed and, thanks to her criminal of a husband, lost everything. So when a stranger shows up and offers her a job as caretaker for his mother, a novelist widely assumed to be dead, she jumps at the chance. In true Gothic fashion, she finds herself in a large, spooky house with people who seem at turns friendly and sinister. As she begins to unravel the truth behind why her charge chose to disappear, she also finds that she is more connected to the story than she realizes.

This book has some truly frightening moments and kept me on the edge of my seat. It’s one of those I don’t like to read after dark, or when I’m alone in the house. So of course it would be perfect to take along camping.

The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager

Riley Sager’s latest novel returns to the lakeside setting he employed so well in The Last Time I Lied. This time, the setting is a remote lake in Vermont with only a few houses on its shore. The recently widowed protagonist has retreated to her family’s lake house to grapple with her drinking problem, but she becomes intrigued by the couple living across the lake. She watches them through binoculars and begins to fear that the wife is in danger, but her drinking and spying means she isn’t the most believable witness. She begins to suspect the husband may also be tied to an ongoing investigation of missing girls in the area and decides that if no one will take her seriously, she will investigate on her own.

Like most of Sager’s books, I found this one difficult to put down. I thought I had it figured out about halfway through, but was wildly mistaken. This one might make you reluctant to swim in the lake any time soon. You’ve been warned.

Shadow in the Glass by M. E. Hilliard

Shadow in the Glass is the first book I’ve read by M. E. Hilliard. It’s part of a series, but can easily be read even if you’ve not read the previous installments (as I have not).

Librarian Greer Hogan has come to the lakeside setting for her friend’s wedding, but she has an ulterior motive. Her husband was murdered and she believes that some of the guests at the wedding know more than they are telling. But her plans are put on hold when a wedding guest turns up dead in the lake and she has to turn her attention to the new mystery. I plan to go back and start at the beginning of this series, as I enjoyed this one.

Secret at Mystic Lake by Carolyn Keene

I’ve mentioned before that I preferred Trixie Belden to Nancy Drew growing up. But I’ve started to think maybe I need to read some of the original stories to see what I’m missing. This would be a good one to start with.

For her birthday, Nancy is taking a scenic, three-day bike trip around Mystic Lake with George and Bess. But their trip is soon sabotaged—slashed tires, stolen supplies, a disappearing guide. Will Nancy be able to solve the mystery before she and her friends are lost in the woods forever?

A Death in Door County by Annelise Ryan

This book will be released on September 22nd, perfect timing for a fall lake trip. Morgan Carter is a bookstore owner and in her spare time, she hunts cryptids. You know—Bigfoot, Nessie, Mothman. When a series of bodies turns up on the shores of Lake Michigan bearing bites that seem to be from a large unknown animal, Morgan agrees to assist the local police in hunting down a fabled lake monster. With her dog at her side, she heads out in search of the monster, but if she isn’t careful, she might be its next victim.

I can’t wait to read this book. While I am very skeptical, I still love a good cryptid story and would love to visit Loch Ness someday. Side note: I collect Lochs of Scotland dishes and each piece bears a picture of adifferent Scottish lake. If you look closely at the Loch Ness pieces, you’ll see Nessie out in the middle of the lake. I love it.

So there you are, eight books perfect for lakeside reading. How about you,
are you planning an end-of-summer lake trip or making plans for some
fall camping around a crackling fire? Let me know in the comments
and be sure to pack some of these books to take along.

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I love a good scary story. Not Stephen King scary, more like Shirley Jackson scary. Stephen King’s stories jump out at you and shriek in your face. Shirley Jackson’s stories creep up behind you and run a cold finger down your spine. In honor of Halloween, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite spooky reads. You won’t find much blood and gore in these books, but there are frights aplenty.

Spooky season is here. Time to curl up with a scary story while the wind howls outside and the neighborhood goblins roam the streets. Need some ideas for what to read this All Hallow’s Eve? Here are 13 stories old and new that are guaranteed to send a shiver up your spine.

Classic Scares

People, it seems, have always enjoyed being frightened, especially if they could do it while safely curled up at home under the blankets. These classic tales have stood the test of time and still pack a spooky punch.

#1 The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving is probably my all-time favorite Halloween story. I read it at least once a year, preferably as the leaves start to turn. Irving was a master of creating a sense of place, and his descriptions of the misty environs of Sleepy Hollow and the warm glow of Baltus Van Tassel’s hearth make me wish I could step right into the story. As long as I could avoid the horseman, of course.

#2 The House of the Seven Gables

The House of the Seven Gables was Nathaniel Hawthorne’s followup to The Scarlet Letter (another favorite of mine). With themes of guilt and retribution and a strong undercurrent of witchcraft and the supernatural, The House of the Seven Gables is a perfect read for a chilly October night. (Also check out the short story “Young Goodman Brown,” another spooky tale that’s perfect for Halloween.)

#3 The Woman in White

The Woman in White is a doorstopper of a Gothic masterpiece, widely considered to be the first psychological mystery. Whether or not that is the case, it is definitely an excellent example of Victorian writing, which can take an entire page to say what could have been said with a single sentence. The oppressive atmosphere and storyline involving insanity and identity theft make it an excellent choice for a Halloween read. The most frightening aspect of the story, for me at least, is the utter powerlessness of women during this era.

#4 The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill is quite possibly the most terrifying book I’ve ever read. It’s a slim little book, but it packs a punch. (And isn’t that cover just gorgeous?) I made the mistake of starting it at night. When I was home alone with the kids. I had to finish it during the daylight hours, and I will never look at a rocking chair the same way again. You’ve been warned.

#5 Hallowe’en Party

Hallowe’en Party is one of Agatha Christie’s later works, published in 1969, and has often been considered one of her less successful novels. However, it was one of the first of her novels I bought as a child, and I’ve always had a soft spot for it because of its Halloween setting. Be warned though, that some of the victims in this one are children (teenagers, actually, but still . . . ).

#6 We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Merricat, the central character of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, is one of my favorite unreliable narrators. Shirley Jackson was a genius when it comes to creating an atmosphere of creeping unease, letting us know that something is slightly off without revealing what that something is until the end of the tale. We grow accustomed to seeing the world through Merricat’s eyes, so that when the truth is revealed, we feel wrong-footed while at the same time thinking, “of course that’s what happened.”

#7 The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House is right up there with The Woman in Black for scare factor, at least for me. The book bears little if any resemblance to the Netflix series. The book is much . . . quieter. Remember that sense of creeping dread? We feel it in Hill House, even though we aren’t really sure why, since nothing tangibly bad is happening. Nonetheless, this book contains one of the most frightening scenes I’ve ever read and is the reason I can never sleep with my hand hanging off the bed, for fear that I will feel another hand slip into it.

Contemporary Frights

Looking for something a little more modern? These scary tales were all written in the past few years and all but one feature a contemporary setting, reminding us that things that go bump in the night haven’t been banished in the internet age.

#8 The Invited

I just finished The Invited last week and I couldn’t put it down. I loved Jennifer McMahon’s earlier novel The Winter People, so I was looking forward to this one as well. It was so good. The story of an urban couple who buy a house in the country with a disturbing history, it is the perfect balance of creepy and mysterious, with a very satisfying ending.

#9 I Remember You

I Remember You was my first taste of Scandinavian author Yrsa Sigurdardóttir’s work and it did not disappoint. It was utterly terrifying, almost more horror than mystery, and I found myself completely immersed in the story. The bleak setting combines with the ghost story to create a growing sense of dread that culminates in the shocking ending.

#10 Home Before Dark

Riley Sager is a new favorite author of mine. I have loved all of his books, but I think Home Before Dark might be my favorite. I’m always a sucker for a good ghost story. The main character, Maggie, returns to her childhood home to face her demons—in this case, literally. The house was the scene of an Amityville-type haunting that earned her family fame, fortune, and the ire of the locals. Maggie doesn’t remember it and thinks her father made it all up, but she’s about to find out otherwise.

#11 Mary Rose

Mary Rose is a retelling of a play by J.M. Barrie, a Gothic novel with threads of romance and the paranormal. Mary Rose is a woman who vanished as a child and mysteriously returned 30 days later. When her new husband finds out about the incident, he won’t rest until he finds out what really happened to her. Alfred Hitchcock badly wanted to make a movie from the original Barrie play, and I so wish he had. However, this super-creepy novel is very satisfying and will have to do.

Cover of The Unquiet Grave by Sharon McCrumb | Quill & Glass blog

#12 The Unquiet Grave

The Unquiet Grave is the latest in Sharyn McCrumb’s wonderful ballad series, in which she weaves elements from traditional murder ballads into the mystery narrative. The books in the series are incredibly well-researched and sprinkled with history and folklore. This one is based on the tale of the Greenbrier Ghost, a murder trial that featured a most unusual element—the testimony of a ghost. If you enjoy this one, check out some of the other ballad novels. My personal favorite is The Ballad of Frankie Silver.

#13 The Vanishing

Wendy Webb’s niche is big, old, haunted houses on the Great Lakes. I love a good ghost story, and her books always deliver. This was the first one I read and remains one of my favorites.

Julia Bishop has just been widowed and, thanks to her criminal of a husband, lost everything. So when a stranger shows up and offers her a job as caretaker for his mother, a novelist widely assumed to be dead, she jumps at the chance. In true Gothic fashion, she finds herself in a large, spooky house with people who seem at turns friendly and sinister. As she begins to unravel the truth behind why her charge chose to disappear, she also finds that she is more connected to the story than she realizes.

This book has some truly frightening moments and kept me on the edge of my seat. It’s one of those I don’t like to read after dark, or when I’m alone in the house. So of course it would be perfect to take along camping.

There you have it—13 spooky stories to keep you up late. What
are your favorite scary stories? Do you prefer blood and guts
scary or spooky, keep-you-looking-over-your-shoulder scary?
Let me know in the comments.

Want more spooky quotes? Check out this post.

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I’m a sucker for a locked-room mystery. Or an isolated-island mystery, in this case. It’s day 114 of quarantine here, and while nobody has been killed off yet, I’ll admit I’m starting to have a lot more sympathy for all those characters trapped in country houses, abandoned islands, and snowbound trains.

I’ve been looking forward to reading They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall since I first saw it mentioned last year. Little did I know that by the time I finally read it, I would be feeling the walls closing in on me as if I was the one stranded on a deserted island. Nonetheless, I was excited to finally get my hands on this book.

Miriam Macy has big plans for her week on a private island off the coast of Mexico. This is her chance to fix all her problems—the financial problems, the legal problems, the problems with her teenage daughter.

It was supposed to be a week in paradise, participating in a new reality show that must surely have a hefty cash prize waiting at the end. Instead, Miriam and her fellow travelers quickly find out that they’ve all been lured to the island under false pretenses. And before long, one of them is dead. Then another.

Miriam’s new plan is simple. Survive the week, escape the island, and get back home to her daughter.

If, like me, you’re a huge Agatha Christie fan, this probably sounds a little familiar.

And Then There Were None is one of my favorite Christie novels—one of the first I read as a child and probably the one I’ve reread the most. Howzell Hall makes it clear on the dedication page that this is her version of Christie’s novel:

While I’m all about cozy mysteries, I was intrigued by the idea of “something darker and American.” Howzell Hall delivered on her promise by bringing in issues relevant to today’s headlines—cyber bullying, police violence against people of color, a diverse cast. And it definitely has a darker feel. Which is kind of strange, when you think that Christie’s version included multiple murdered children as well as an unrepentant mass murderer, although those murders were firmly in the past and only alluded to. They All Fall Down feels grittier and more realistic.

I had quite a bit of fun as I read, picking out details she had carried over from Christie’s novel, a bit like hunting for Easter eggs in a Pixar movie. Starting with the title. Howzell Hall, like Christie, took her title from a children’s poem, although fortunately a much less offensive one. Then there is the boat ride to a forsaken island with other guests who have been invited under similarly false pretenses, a table with disappearing figurines, a female narrator whose character is repeatedly questioned by her male housemates, a gun that goes missing . . . there are lots of little nods to the original novel. I won’t list them all, especially since some would be spoilers, but see how many you can find!

While I enjoyed the book, especially at the beginning, I found that the further I read, the less likable I found the characters. I sympathized with the narrator in the beginning. I could feel the pain of the rift between her and her daughter, but found her less and less sympathetic as the story went on. While all of the characters in And Then There Were None are clearly bad people, I admit I always found myself hoping a bit that Vera would survive and change her ways. Maybe because her guilt seemed to haunt her so. With Miriam Macy, I just couldn’t seem to root for her in the same way. She seemed intent on putting the blame for her actions on others. I found most of the characters equally unlikable.

Overall, I do recommend the book. Just be forewarned if you are expecting a Christie-esque cozy, this is not one. It is, as the author promised, “something darker and American.”

Have you read They All Fall Down? How many details
from Christie’s novel did you find folded into the story?

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I don’t know about you, but since our quarantine went into effect (15 weeks ago, but who’s counting?), my days have started to run together. Our Mother’s Day cards were late because I mailed them on Friday, believing it was still Wednesday. I wish I was kidding.

Quarantine got you feeling like you’re trapped in the movie Groundhog Day? Then today’s book is just what you need. Or maybe not . . .

Since we already homeschooled, and because we aren’t exactly social butterflies during normal times, I didn’t expect life to change that much for us. In fact, I was excited about being told to stay home. It’s an introvert’s dream after all—cancel all the things. I was also convinced I was going to get So. Much. Done.

The reality of quarantine life has been a little different than I expected.

Sure, for the first few weeks it was novel. Home-cooked meals together every night! At the table, even! Playing board games, taking walks, learning to paint with watercolors, eating more Oreos in a matter of weeks than I have for the past five years combined . . . But after a few weeks (months? I’m not even sure anymore), the novelty wore off, and we began to lose all sense of reality.

Would you like to hazard a guess what tonight’s home-cooked meal will be? Grilled cheese sandwiches. Or possibly frozen pizza. Whichever it is, it will likely be eaten in the living room while we watch yet another Jurassic Park movie. My daughter has just discovered them and is obsessed. I had no idea there so many of them. These people really don’t learn, do they?

Sorry if I’m rambling, but I haven’t had much human contact outside this house lately, and I’m afraid it may be affecting my already questionable social skills.

All this is to say that if you are anything like me, feeling as if you’re trapped in the John Carpenter version of Groundhog Day, then you’ll feel right at home in Stuart Turton’s fictional world, and I’m honestly not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

In The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (for some reason called The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle outside the U.S.), the reader is dropped right into the action when the main character wakes to find himself lost in the woods and unsure of where he is or even who he is. This book hits the ground running and doesn’t let up—I was utterly confused for the first few chapters and yet I couldn’t put it down.

The premise is soon made clear—the main character, who we eventually find out is named Aiden Bishop, is trapped in a country house party at the ominously named Blackheath Manor and will be forced to live the same day over and over until he unmasks the murderer of Evelyn Hardcastle, the daughter of his hosts. That’s not a spoiler, by the way, it’s right there in the title. Evelyn Hardcastle is going to die. But at whose hand?

There are rules, however. Each day Aiden will find himself inhabiting the body of a different guest, some of whom are more helpful to him than others, and there is a ticking clock. If he doesn’t solve the murder soon enough, he could be trapped at Blackheath forever. Worse, it seems that he isn’t the only one playing this game, and his opponents will stop at nothing to win. A mysterious man in a beaked plague doctor mask, a sinister footman, and an ephemeral woman named Anna are only a few of the complications he will contend with as the hours slip away.

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is an incredibly unique debut novel and therefore hard to categorize. It isn’t cozy, exactly. But it isn’t not cozy, either. Imagine if an Agatha Christie novel, Groundhog Day, and the 80s TV show Quantum Leap had a baby. It would be this novel. There is a definite country house mystery flavor to the story, complete with menacing atmosphere, crumbling manor, masked ball, dark forest, unsolved murder from the past, and secretive characters. But there is also a slightly disorienting feeling of being in both the past and the future simultaneously.

At 482 pages, this isn’t a quick read, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, I plan to go back and reread it now that I know the ending. There are quite a few characters and it took me a while to get them straight in my mind. Add in the time loop, and I found myself flipping back to check facts pretty often. Another reviewer mentioned that she actually took notes as she read—I wish I’d thought of that!

As I read through a second time, there is one particular fact I want to recheck, because during my first read-through, I thought I spotted a clue, but now I think maybe it was just an overlooked mistake.

Oh, and you know I love a good cover, so I can’t go without mentioning this one. Is it gorgeous or what? That Art Deco design and bold color combination caught my eye immediately.

Stuart Turton’s next book, The Devil and the Dark Water, is due out in October. It sounds as if it will be just as intriguing as his first one, and it’s definitely going on my TBR list.

Have you read The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle yet? If not, you
should! And while you’re reading, keep an eye out for gloves—or is it
socks?—drying over the fire. Was it a clue or just an overlooked mistake?

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I’ve been looking forward to the 6th installment of the Amory Ames mystery series, A Dangerous Engagement, since January. Ashley Weaver’s series about a British socialite and her dashing, if somewhat ne’er-do-well husband, is quite possibly my favorite ongoing mystery series.

Amory and her dashing husband Milo are back, and this time they are adding 1930s New York, complete with speakeasies and gangsters, to their detecting repertoire.

Weaver’s novels are classic mysteries in the style of the Golden Age, always with a high-society setting—seaside hotel, masked ball, country house, Paris, the theater, and now Prohibition-era New York—and peopled with a variety of suspicious characters, keeping me from figuring out whodunnit every time. The many period details she includes, from clothing to cars, create an engaging backdrop for her stories.

The book opens as Amory and Milo, with ladies’ maid Winnelda and valet Parks in tow, are steaming into harbor in New York. Amory is feeling a little worse for wear after a rough ocean voyage, but is looking forward to a relaxing time attending the wedding of her old friend, Tabitha Alden. Milo is unenthusiastic, to say the least, about attending a wedding where no alcohol will be served, but he has hopes for a little fun after the “dull business” is over. Unfortunately, that rough crossing was a pretty good indication of how the visit will go.

Amory’s excitement over being reunited with her childhood friend quickly turns to worry when she begins to suspect Tabitha is hiding something from her. And Tabitha isn’t the only character whose behavior is a bit shady. No one seems to know much about the groom, Tom, before he arrived in New York a few years earlier, and one of the groomsmen is reputed to have ties to a bootlegging operation. Even the father of bride is living suspiciously well for someone who lost a large part of his wealth in the stock market crash.

When one of the wedding party is shot dead on the front steps of the Alden home, Amory and Milo begin to feel as if they’ve wandered into an American gangster film. The police seem content to pin the murder on a low-level mob hitman, but Amory is convinced the crime was more personal. With Milo distracted by a new business opportunity, she seizes the chance to infiltrate the seedy world of jazz clubs and bootleggers in search of answers, despite Milo’s attempts to discourage her investigation.

If you haven’t read the rest of the series, don’t worry—you’ll be able to follow the story—but reading the whole series definitely makes for a richer experience. The evolving relationship between Amory and Milo is a big part of the appeal of these books, and reading them in order will help you appreciate that aspect. I’m excited to see where their relationship is going, especially after the revelation at the end of this installment.

On a totally unrelated note, I absolutely love the cover design of this series. I know, I know. Don’t judge a book by its cover and all that. But, really, we all know that’s exactly what we do, and these covers really do catch my eye.

Update • I recently read the newest installment A Deception at Thornecrest and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I’ve added it to the links below. So far the series is holding up well, and I look forward to the next book. I’ve also read the first in her new series, A Peculiar Combination, featuring a safecracker and a government agent and set during World War II. I highly recommend it as well. Weaver does a good job at blending mystery and romance, and this new series is very promising.

In a recent interview, Ashley Weaver mentioned that Milo is a very
polarizing character—people either love him or hate him. In fact, one
reader expressed hope that the next murder Amory investigates
will be Milo’s! What do you think? Are you team Milo or do you think
Amory should move on? I have to admit, I’m team Milo all the way.

Fueled by equal parts sweet tea and passion, I spend my days capturing the kinds of images that make you stop, smile and ask time to please slow down. 

Your story, your love, is beautiful and I can’t wait to capture it in images you will treasure for years to come. I believe in real moments and heartfelt conversations on the front porch. In the kinds of images that remind you of the joy that can be found in the simplest of moments together. 

mystery writer & editor

I’m Amanda

Get to know me

hello there!

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Writing Routine

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