Saturday Savings 27.08.2016

I like to say that I was created for joy since my first name literally means “song of joy.” I love to make joyful noises — silly songs that I sing to my cat, my dogs, my horse, myself — but sometimes joy seems to desert me. It’s then that I need help. He who created me for joy always provides.

In the last week, I’ve been overcome by everything. Our internet connection went down last Saturday, and I couldn’t get online long enough to find any discounts to share with you or to post them if I had been able to find them. The weight of almost 94 years is taking a toll on my beautiful mom-by-marriage. The cousin-by-marriage who introduced me to Mister Sister is unwell. The unrelenting heat and humidity of August on the Gulf Coast is wreaking havoc on my body, and my spirit. The news was filled with disturbing stories, from dirty politics to earthquakes to stupidity.

Anne of InglesideA stranger came to my aid, clicking on my profile at Amazon.com and sending me an item from my Wish List: Anne of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery, the one chronicle in the series that I did not have and had not read.  A dose of Anne was just what I needed. I ended up rereading the whole Anne of Green Gables series, allowing all that is therein to heal my wounded spirit . . . the beauty of Prince Edward Island, the joy that is Anne and the wisdom of the writer.

Today, I returned to the quiet time I need before I start my days and I recalled again how much I need this time, to pray and to read something that feeds my soul before I face whatever the day has in store for me. This Saturday, I’m sharing some books that are essential reading for my spirit and some that may perhaps speak to yours:

The Lucado Inspirational Reader: Hope and Encouragement for Your Everyday Max LucadoLife by Max Lucado, discounted from $9.99 to $0.99 (USD). I received an email yesterday notifying me that this one had been discounted to $2.99, and I decided to check today to see if the price held. Instead, I saw that the price has dropped by two more dollars! Here’s a description:

Comfort and the cross. Faith and forgiveness. Salvation and spiritual refreshment. For more than 25 years you’ve trusted Max Lucado to walk with you as you ponder these essential truths. This collection of his very best illustrations, stories, and one-liners guides you through his signature themes and life’s most important matters. Spend a few minutes or a couple of hours at the foot of the cross. Take a moment or an afternoon to search the heart of the Savior. Seize a second for a second chance. Return to these words time and again for a dose of hope and encouragement straight from Max’s heart to yours.

A few months ago, I reviewed a powerful primer on prayer. It’s free, a gift from author Diane Moody to you. If you didn’t get it, consider clicking now on Confessions of a Prayer Slacker and find out if you are slacking off and what you need to do to get back on track.

A few years ago, I was introduced to slim volume in plain but powerful language for its chapters on prayer. I strive to read a chapter every day. As soon as I come to the end, I go back to the beginning and start all over again. As long as I’m reading it, I don’t get off track. It’s time to hit reset and start again at Chapter One:

It isn’t available in a Kindle edition yet, but you can find digital versions free online at several sites. I downloaded a couple, but I also bought a hardbound edition secondhand. This one is so valuable to me that I paid a bookbinder to stitch the pages and strengthen the binding so it will last a lifetime. But, be warned: This is not a book for every Christian. The way is simple, but it isn’t easy to follow and I can’t pretend that I walk all of it. All the same, it has taught me more than how to pray. It showed me how to say farewell to frustration. Can you do that? Do you want to do that?

Zoo Station journeys to 1939 Berlin

From Soho Crime
From Soho Crime

Zoo Station by David Downing; first published in 2007 by Soho Press Inc.; Kindle price currently $1.99 (USD), paperback edition, list $9.99 (USD). Book 1 of a 6-book series.

Zoo Station introduces John Russell, a journalist whose policy of appeasing the Nazis in 1939 mirrors the policy of the politicians whose attempts to avoid a world war would soon fail.

Russell, a 40-year-old who freelances for newspapers around the world, has lost the youthful idealism that once led him to join the Communist Party, fight fascists in Spain, and write hard news without worrying about whom it might offend. Now, he plays it safe so he can remain in Berlin, where his young son, Paul, lives with his ex-wife and her second husband.

But nothing is safe in Nazi Germany, and Russell soon finds himself caught between his old comrades in Russia, his connections at the British Embassy and the Gestapo. The danger deepens when a fellow journalist enlists Russell’s help, then plunges to his death from the platform at the Zoo Station subway while gathering evidence of a Nazi plan to euthanize German children.

Soho Press provided an advanced reading copy of Zoo Station as part of its reading challenge celebrating 25 years of publishing international crime fiction, and I thoroughly enjoyed this thriller. Russell’s conflict between compromise and integrity while living under Nazi rule really reflects the conflict that paralyzed the politicians who tried throughout the 1930s. The result is a taut thriller that provides insights to a real struggle, as well as the fictional one.

Russell proves to be an honorable hero, an ordinary man who undertakes the extraordinary when faced with dangerous times in a dangerous place. I’m glad this was only the first book in a series, because I want to read more. If you like espionage thrillers, especially those set in Nazi Germany, I think you will, too.

NOTE: Sis received a complimentary copy of Zoo Station from Soho Press Inc. via NetGalley for her participation in the publisher’s 25th anniversary reading challenge.  Sis is grateful for the opportunity.

Description:  By 1939, Anglo-American journalist John Russell has spent over a decade in Berlin. He writes human-interest pieces for British and American papers, avoiding the investigative journalism that could get him deported. But as World War II approaches, he faces having to leave his son as well as his girlfriend of several years, a beautiful German starlet. When an acquaintance from his old communist days approaches him to do some work for the Soviets, Russell is reluctant, but he is unable to resist the offer. He becomes involved in other dangerous activities, helping a Jewish family and a determined young American reporter. When the British and the Nazis notice his involvement with the Soviets, Russell is dragged into the murky world of warring intelligence services.

Soho Crime has been publishing atmospheric crime fiction set all over the world for the last 25 years. The publisher’s popular series take readers to France, China, England, Laos, Northern Ireland, Australia, Japan, Germany, South Africa, Italy, Denmark, and Palestine, among other locales, with entire range of crime fiction—detective fiction, police procedurals, thrillers, espionage novels, revenge novels, stories of thieves, assassins, and underworld mob bosses.


Return to Rio, or escape into fiction

with Saturday Savings 13.08.2016

MunichIn 1972, the Germans planned a spectacular celebration of sport in an effort to erase the bigotry that blazed in Berlin 36 years earlier . . . but Munich was marred by the terrorist attack on the Israeli athletes and the massacre of hostages and terrorists at the airport afterward.

Richard Mandell, whose history of the 1936 Games was required reading for the organizers (and was featured here a week ago), had access to everything — participants, planners, sites — for three weeks. His The Olympics of 1972: a Munich Diary is a record of his impressions of the aesthetic, political, and athletic dimensions of the spectacle. It’s discounted today to 99 cents.

Mandell urged the organizers to cancel the games, but his diary isn’t aNazi Olympics history of the terrorist attack itself. Many of his observations are about design: the plastic roof that covered acres, the visual Esperanto of color-coded uniforms, the catalogs for the many art exhibitions, the newly devised “pictograms” directing visitors around the Olympic facilities that transformed Munich. Mandell also writes about modern sports equipment and about television and sport. He describes what he learned by watching training fields, saunas, and in the all-you-can-eat cafeterias and listening in on athletes’ conversations in the Olympic Village.

Peter Lovesey not only wrote the Peter Diamond mysteries (which Sis has Kings of Distancebeen reviewing), but he also wrote profiles of five long-distance runners from past Olympics:  The Kings of Distance, which is also on sale for 99 cents today. This history tells the stories of:

Deerfoot the Indian brave who successfully challenged the leading runners of Victorian England. In 1863, he set a record for distance covered in one hour that was only exceeded by a British amateur 90 years later.

George at the age of 19, in 1878, with the solitary distinction of joint first place in a walking race to his credit, announced that he would one day run a mile in 4 minutes 12 seconds, an achievement unbelievable at that time. Eight years later, having improved every world record, he officially attained his ambition in ‘The Mile of the Century’.

Shrubb, ‘The Irrepressible,’ discovered his running ability by accident, and made staggering records in the most unpromising conditions. His historic run in November 1904, created new world records for every distance from six to 11¾ miles.

Nurmi, at the Paris Olympic Games of 1924, achieved the never-to-be-repeated feat of winning both the 15,000 and 5,000 metre races within 1 hour and 20 minutes, and carried off four individual gold medals in the six days.

Zátopek so manifestly set himself apart from other distance runners that reporters named him ‘The Human Locomotive’, describing his races in two categories: one for Zátopek, the other for those who struggled far behind for second place. A strenuous training programme prepared him for the most extraordinary triple victory in the history of the Olympic Games.

BourneNot into the Games?  Well, Jason Bourne is back in theaters, and the first book in Robert Ludlum’s series is on sale, too, at $1.99.  The Bourne Identity is a classic suspense story, and, as fun as the film is, the book is better.

Description: His memory is a blank. His bullet-ridden body was fished from the Mediterranean Sea. His face has been altered by plastic surgery. A frame of microfilm has been surgically implanted in his hip. Even his name is a mystery. Marked for death, he is racing for survival through a bizarre world of murderous conspirators—led by Carlos, the world’s most dangerous assassin. Who is Jason Bourne? The answer may kill him.

What’s up with a blue cat? Lenora explains

PeteGuest review by Lenora, a kindergarten teacher

If you’re a parent, grandparent, or just care about a child, you’re probably wondering why the Pete the Cat series is a good choice for young readers. A blue cat, you might wonder? What’s up with that?

Pete the Cat piques the interest of young children. They like animals. Pete seems to have lots of fun, which is always a plus in children’s minds. He rides a skateboard and a surfboard. He’s very cool!

Pete has a very positive attitude. He doesn’t get upset when bad things happen. Bad things sometimes happen but that’s all OK. Everything will be fine. Pete is all about kindness to others. Many of my students live in neighborhoods with lots of violence. This positive attitude is very reassuring to them.

The stories are very obviously fictional, and that appeals to youngbeach pete children. They like to make believe. Cats aren’t blue and they don’t talk. They don’t really drive buses, ride skateboards or surfboards, or go to the beach or scuba dive. It’s so fun to pretend, though! They can imagine themselves there having fun with Pete. Many kids today need to escape their horrific environments.

Many of the Pete the Cat books are in the My First I Can Read series published by HarperCollins. The I Can Read series has long had an excellent reputation for quality books for young readers. Many of the words are appropriate sight words for young readers. The amount of text on the page is also appropriate for young readers. A student that is reading at a first-grade level could read them independently. They’re excellent shared or buddy readers for kindergarteners. A kindergartener who has read the story repeatedly with someone could read much of it themselves. Repeated reading of a story is an excellent way to boost your child’s oral reading fluency.

reading labelMy kindergarteners loved Pete the Cat last year. The kids at my van dismissal duty did, too. He was a favorite amongst the pre-kindergarten through second grade amongst that group. They would get very excited when I read a Pete the Cat book while they were waiting to go home.

Lenora reports that 13 students attended Monday’s Meet the Teacher event at her school, when each received a copy of one Pete the Cat Too Cool for School to keep. “I saw some big smiles and excited faces!” she said. Students who did not attend receive their copy when they first report to school.  And she’s already using these books, which many of you have donated, to teach her students about generosity and kindness. All proceeds generated through clicks on this review will be forwarded to Lenora by means of an Amazon.com gift card, to use for more books or supplies. Please help me verify these purchases by emailing me at Sis@MiddleSisterReviews.com. You don’t need to tell me what you bought or how much you spent, simply that you clicked on one of the links in this post or the searchable link below. That will help me separate your purchase from any others on the same day.  Thanks!

Lenora uses a Pete the Cat hand puppet as well as the books in her classroom.
Lenora uses a Pete the Cat hand puppet as well as the books in her classroom.
A plush Pete the Cat poses with his eponymous books.
A plush Pete the Cat poses with his eponymous books.


The torch burns in Rio

Saturday Savings 06.08.2016 celebrates the games

Olympic LordsReady or not, Rio de Janeiro is aflame with the 2016 Olympic Games. The athletes, and the spectators, have arrived and it’s time to look beyond the accommodations, the displaced, and the threat of Zika to the competition.

It’s also a good time to look back, to past games and past glories. Endeavour Press is discounting two ebooks — one which is really a long essay originally published in 2012 about the three lords who brought the Olympic Games to London, the other , the other about the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin — to help readers get in the mood.

Lords of the Olympics by John Bryant tells the story of the three British Lords who brought the Olympic Games to London, the only city to host them three times.  It’s a short read, 40 or so pages, written by a Fleet Street journalist and lifelong athlete who also coached an Olympian, but it’s only 99 cents (USD) today.

Each of the three brought the games to London in his own way. Each also snatched triumph when the Games faced disaster and crisis.

Lord Desborough, the perfect Edwardian sportsman – cricketer, sculler, fencer and huntsman – masterminded the Games in just two years when a near bankrupt Italy pulled out. He bequeathed the Edwardian concept of “play up, play up and play the game” which was to set the tone of international sport for 70 years.

Lord Burghley stepped in when two great wars ripped the world apart. There were no Olympics in 1940 or 1944, but with just two years to go he demonstrated that the Olympics were about sport and not war. Britain was almost bankrupt, rationing was rife, and bombsites littered the London landscape. But in these make-do-and-mend Olympics, Lord Burghley and the indomitable spirit of London overcame every obstacle.

Lord Coe, one of the greatest middle-distance runners that Britain has ever produced, faced a different problem when he entered the race to bring the Olympics back to London. In a fiercely commercial word everyone wants the Games. He’s had to see off the threats of corrupt and unethical practices, the gift-giving and inflated budgets that have haunted recent bids to secure the Games.

Remember Gabrielle? Grace, Gold, and Glory is the autobiography of the girl Gabbywho stole hearts and made U.S. Olympic history in London during the 2012 games.  It’s a tale of faith, perserverance and determination, from the first U.S. woman’s gymnast to win gold in team and individual events. The ebook is $1.99 (USD) today. Gabrielle began her training at age six, and became the Virginia State Champion only two years later. When she was 14, she left her family in Virginia Beach to train with coach Liang Chow in Des Moines, Iowa. Under Chow’s guidance, and with tremendous faith in God’s plan for her, Gabrielle competed in the Olympic Trials and walked away with the only guaranteed spot on the team. Since her Olympic triumph, Gabrielle has used her platform to inspire millions with a powerful message: With hard work and persistence, any dream is possible.

Nazi OlympicsThe Nazi Olympics by Richard D. Mandell, also 99 cents today, describes the staging of a fantasy-drama that was, in essence, a superbly engineered piece of Nazi “realpolitik.” Over 5,000 athletes from 28 nations fought as political gladiators. Hundreds of pampered foreigners, journalists, businessmen, and diplomats abandoned themselves — and their judgment — to the extravaganza. The Nazis controlled Germany, and they expected the games to prove Aryan supremacy (and all their other bigoted beliefs) to the watching world. It didn’t work out that way, thanks to the athletes:

Jess Owens:  black, beautiful, and innocent.

Helen Stephens: “the fastest woman in the world.”

Kitei Son: a Korean running the marathon under the hated Japanese flag

Helene Mayer: the statuesque, half-Jewish fencing champion who became a “cause célèbre” by competing under the swastika.

Richard D. Mandell (1929-2013) was a professor of history at the University of South Carolina. He was also the author of Sport: A Cultural History, The First Modern Olympics. and The Nazi Olympics

Kindle ebook $9.99 (USD)
Kindle ebook $9.99 (USD)

I anticipated the games by starting The Boys in the Boat, another tale from the 1936 Olympics, but one which is not discounted.  Daniel James Brown recounts an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate times with this improbably and intimate account of nine working-class boys from the American West who showed the world what true grit really means.

It was an unlikely quest from the start. With a team composed of the sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the University of Washington’s eight-oar crew team was never expected to defeat the elite teams of the East Coast and Great Britain, yet they did, going on to shock the world by defeating the German team rowing for Adolf Hitler. The emotional heart of the tale lies with Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not only to regain his shattered self-regard but also to find a real place for himself in the world. Drawing on the boys’ own journals and vivid memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, Brown has created an unforgettable portrait of an era, a celebration of a remarkable achievement, and a chronicle of one extraordinary young man’s personal quest.

Soho’s reading challenge continues

Dark NightRecommended:  Upon a Dark Night by Peter Lovesey; originally published in Great Britain in 1997 by Little, Brown and Company, published in the U.S. in 2005 by Soho Press Inc.; reissued by Soho for Kindle, list price $14.99 (USD)/currently $9.99 (USD), paperback edition, $14.00 (USD). Book 5 of a 16-book series.

Peter Lovesey features a fiction favorite – the victim whose memory is utterly lost – in Upon a Dark Night, his fifth crime novel featuring the irascible yet insightful Peter Diamond.

The effort is ambitious, even audacious, yet Lovesey succeeds where lesser writers have failed. First, he did his homework. He writes knowledgeably about dissociative amnesia, avoiding the popular misconceptions regarding this really rare form of memory loss.  This factual framework means a story that was written nearly 20 years ago remains believable today, even with advances in medical knowledge.

The story also succeeds because of Lovesey’s skill. The plot is complex, but the clues are well placed and the characters, as always, are well drawn. Lovesey rightfully allows Diamond to suffer some consequences for his boorish behavior, and this allows readers to continue to believe in the obviously flawed but essentially kind character of the detective. The pace also showcases Lovesey’s skill, maintaining the reader’s interest in seemingly separate storylines and allowing the reader to see the connections while Diamond remains in the dark.

Like the earlier books in this series (as well as other series on Soho’s International Crime list), the setting is superb. Throughout the story, Lovesey scatters details from Bath’s past and present, along with intriguing hints of history involving ancient battles between the Britons and the Saxons. He also continues to showcase the city using the Royal Crescent not only as the scene of a woman’s death but as the backdrop for a production filming The Pickwick Papers.

I’m reading my way through the Peter Diamond series as I participate in Soho’s reading challenge celebrating 25 years of publishing international crime fiction. I have two months to read all 16 mysteries, and I hope to pull it off because it’s been a pleasure to read these and I’d like to read the first five and I’d like to read the 11 remaining.

These are traditional detective stories. In some, such as this one, the victims do die violent deaths, but Lovesey exercises discretion in the details. He also keeps the use of expletives to a minimum, though readers will find a few in this particular novel. He writes too well to rely on them, either for “realism” or other unconvincing reasons, so readers shouldn’t take offense.

NOTE: Sis thanks Soho for her complimentary reading copy of Upon a Dark Night and for the opportunity to participate in the publisher’s 25th anniversary reading challenge. Her review, as always, reflects her own opinions.

Description:  A young woman is dumped, injured and unconscious, in a private hospital’s parking lot. She is an amnesiac with no memory prior to her discovery by hospital personnel. Detective Inspector Peter Diamond of the Bath homicide squad is unwilling to become involved. He has other, more important cases to solve: A woman has plunged to her death from the roof of a local landmark while half the young people of Bath partied below, and an elderly farmer has shot himself. Are these apparent suicides what they seem, or are there sinister forces at work? And might the amnesiac woman hold the key to both cases?

About the author: Peter Lovesey has written 16 Peter Diamond mysteries, known for their use of surprise, strong characters and hard-to-crack puzzles. He has received the Cartier Diamond Dagger, the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere, the Anthony, the Ellery Queen Readers’ Award and is Grand Master of the Swedish Academy of Detection. He has been a full-time author since 1975. Earlier series include the Sergeant Cribb mysteries seen on TV and the Bertie, Prince of Wales novels. The Diamond novels, set in Bath, England, where Peter lived for some years, feature a burly, warm-hearted, but no-nonsense police detective whose personal life becomes as engaging to the reader as the intricate mysteries he solves. Visit his website at www.peterlovesey.com for more.

Soho Crime has been publishing atmospheric crime fiction set all over the world for the last 25 years. The publisher’s popular series take readers to France, China, England, Laos, Northern Ireland, Australia, Japan, Germany, South Africa, Italy, Denmark, and Palestine, among other locales, with entire range of crime fiction—detective fiction, police procedurals, thrillers, espionage novels, revenge novels, stories of thieves, assassins, and underworld mob bosses.


Lambert & Hook return for Final Act

Kindle edition coming 1 September 2016
Kindle edition coming 1 September 2016

Recommended:  Final Act (Book 29 in the Lambert & Hook series) by J.M. Gregson; Kindle ebook scheduled for release 1 September 2016 from Severn House Publishers, Kindle pre-order price $15.33 (USD); hardbound edition now available, list price $28.99 (USD), current price $24.05 (USD).

A company of actors all but upstage the “real” detectives in Final Act, the latest mystery in J.M. Gregson’s long-running Lambert & Hook series.

Sam Jackson chews the scenery behind the scenes as the highly successful television producer pretending to be a Hollywood mogul – coarse in appearance, behavior and speech – until he’s found dead in his caravan in a break between shooting. Everyone on location, from his assistant to the star to the aging actor in a cameo role, has a reason to wish him dead, and Gregson focuses suspicion on each one equally, and convincingly.

Jackson himself is so repulsive that the reader won’t regret his demise. In fact, I enjoyed the mystery more once he was off stage, so to speak, and the other characters could take over. And they do take over, pushing Detective Chief Superintendent Lambert and Detective Sergeant Hook out of the limelight and into supporting roles for their 29th appearance.

The series began in 1989 with Murder at the Nineteenth. That one, alas, alack, is not available for Kindle, but many of the earlier ones have been re-released by Endeavour Press. I’ve picked up several at discounts, though they are still a bargain at anything from 99 cents to $3.99 (USD). The list price on Final Act is much higher, and much higher than many of the U.S. mysteries. The quality is also higher.

Gregson writes well. The characters are fully fleshed. Even when they are the stock characters of drama – the national treasure with a knighthood, the Page Three girl with a plunging neckline, the good-looking gay with a house-husband – they aren’t stereotypical shortcuts or social statements. The story demands them, and Gregson provides them. He also provides a satisfying puzzle. Until the very end, it seems as though anyone could be the killer. But at the very end, it seems that only one could ever have been suspected.

What more can a mystery reader expect?

NOTE:  Sis received a complimentary advanced reading copy from Severn House via NetGalley, for which she is grateful. Neither attempted to influence her review.

Description:  Sam Jackson is not a man who suffers fools – or anyone else – gladly. A successful British television producer who fancies himself as a Hollywood mogul, he makes enemies easily, and delights in the fact. It is no great surprise that such a man should meet a violent death. Detective Chief Superintendent Lambert and Detective Sergeant Hook deduce that the person who killed him is almost certainly to be found among the company of actors who are shooting a series of detective mysteries in rural Herefordshire. But these are people who make a living by acting out other people’s fictions, people more at home with make-believe than real life – and the two detectives find interrogating them a difficult business. How can Lambert and Hook fight their way to the truth when faced with a cast of practised deceivers?

About the author:  J.M. Gregson, a Lancastrian by birth and upbringing, was a teacher for twenty-seven years before concentrating full-time on writing. He is the author of the popular Percy Peach and Lambert & Hook series, and has written books on subjects as diverse as golf and Shakespeare.

Readers who are reluctant to, or who refuse to, pay so much for ebooks may prefer to borrow this title from a lending library, but many of the titles in this series are quite affordable. Here are a few:

Description: Lydon Hall is, as the estate agent’s brochure puts it, a house full of character. But its many interesting features should surely not include a corpse in the elegant drawing-room? Is this death the suicide it appears to be? Superintendent John Lambert and Sergeant Bert Hook are brought in to investigate the tight-knit village community which houses Lydon hall. And everyone one they meet seems suspicious. From the glamorous French widow of the deceased to the man living rough on the moor they all seem to know more about this death than is at first apparent. Moreover, it gradually emerges that the staff of the estate agency he owned all had their different reasons for disliking the dead man…

‘Making a Killing’ is a chilling, expertly plotted mystery story and the second book in the Lambert and Hook Detective series.

The Fox in the Forest When the town vicar Peter Barton is found shot in the woods between two peaceful villages on Christmas Eve, Superintendent Lambert and his CID team are called in to investigate. His estranged wife herself was missing in the days before her husband’s death, busy with her lover. Could she be the killer Lambert is looking for? Or could it be the only man who seems to dislike the victim and owns a matching shotgun? Or the sweet local boy who travels through the woods every day? Then a second victim is found, again in the woods, again with a shotgun: a man they had held for 36 hours before. It seems that they have a serial killer on their hands, selecting victims at random, a killer who the papers are calling the ‘Fox’. With an endless list of potential suspects and no real evidence, Lambert struggles to find his culprit. The rural community closes in upon itself with secrets when another girl is attacked by the Fox and everyone seems to know the details of the two killings. Can Lambert and his team find a killer amongst the various townspeople with connections to the murders? More importantly, can they piece together the few clues they have to find the truth before another victim is found?


Sis congratulates MaryJo Dawson on the release of her sixth Sally Nimitz

EVC
Kindle edition $2.99 (USD)

Ending the Varney Curse, the sixth Sally Nimitz mystery, is being released today, but publication wasn’t the point when MaryJo Dawson wrote the first one.

“I wrote it for fun,” MaryJo says of The Death of Amelia Marsh.

All six books are available in ebook, from Amazon and other retailers, as well as a tradeback edition for readers who prefer printed books. The Death of Amelia Marsh is a Kindle freebie, and I reviewed it on Amazon when MaryJo was no more than an online acquaintance. She’s now a treasured friend who has allowed me to read final drafts of her last two mysteries, and I readily admit I am biased about her work.

That said, I do recommend Sally – it’s such a relief to encounter a sensible, instead of a silly, sleuth in a more or less cozy mystery.  More, because MaryJo’s mysteries do feature amateurs who solve mysteries (not all of which are murders!) without vulgar language or gruesome grit. Less, because the characters are more developed and the insights much deeper than those in most of the current crop of cozies.

Still, it’s best to let someone who can be impartial review Ending the Varney Curse. Instead, let me introduce you to MaryJo, if you don’t already know her, or, if you do, perhaps tell you more than you already know.

MaryJo, like Sally, had a satisfying career in nursing, most of it in obstetrics. I suspected as much while reading her first mystery, because the descriptions and details resonated with authenticity.  I didn’t know, though, that, like me, she was initially inclined toward literature and history. She backed into nursing.

“The profession chose me,” MaryJo recalled.  “My parents were stunned when, after a year of college, I chose to apply to nursing school. My main reason? It was less expensive. We had little money, and my dad was going to borrow so I could so on with my education.”

Nursing school, especially back then, allowed students to work while pursuing their education.

“There were times during those three years that I wavered in my choice. But God was looking out for me, because throughout my life, with its many ups and downs and different locations, I was always able to get a good job,” MaryJo recalled.MaryJo

A native of Wisconsin, MaryJo has lived and worked in many places from Maine to Mississippi. She now lives with her husband, Bill, in a small town at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in southeastern Colorado.

MaryJo also draws from her own background in creating what I call fiction for Christians (or Jews, or just those who want a clean read). Her stories aren’t really Christian fiction – you won’t find heavily moral messages or preachiness and the references to prayer are subtly matter of fact.

“Throughout the series, the lifestyle (Sally) believes in and lives pops up consistently. It is essential to who she is, who her best friends are, and how the various mysteries are handled,” said MaryJo, who was not only brought up as a Christian but who has, as I have seen firsthand, become a woman of a deep and abiding faith.

Readers who are hostile to religion might not find as much to like as those who are more welcoming, but faith isn’t exactly a theme in these mysteries. Instead, it is a part of who Sally (and recurring characters Anne and George) are, and MaryJo shows us this, rather than tells us so.

Perhaps it’s no wonder that one of the writers who inspires her is Dorothy L. Sayers, best known today for her Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries but whose serious writing includes many works of Christian non-fiction. Other influences and inspirations are Josephine Tey (whose Brat Farrar is a personal favorite), Rex Stout, and the husband-and-wife team of Brock and Bodie Thoene.

You won’t find MaryJo on Facebook. She doesn’t blog, or maintain a website. She does participate in Amazon’s Meet Our Authors Discussion Forum, which is where I first encountered her, but she limits her time online, striking a balance between activities there and offline.

“There are only so many hours in a day. I can’t spend them all on the computer, nor do I want to, so picking and choosing became a necessity,” MaryJo explained.

When she’s not writing, you might find MaryJo in her garden or on a walking path. She calls herself a “pretty boring person” and says she’s very comfortable with that. She loves family and friends, home and hobbies, and she knows something about exquisite chocolates . . . as I know firsthand!

Recent reads include:

Dead Wake by Eric Larson, which was selected by her book club

The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart

The Calvary Road by Roy Hession, who also wrote We Would See Jesus (which MaryJo recently read and recommended to me)

Read a sample of MaryJo’s books, or buy from Amazon by clicking on these links:

The Death of Amelia Marsh — available as a free Kindle ebook; tradeback, $10.10 (USD).

The Disappearance of Douglas White — ebook, $2.99 (USD); tradeback, $11.49 (USD).

The Strange Situation at Emlee ebook, $2.99 (USD); tradeback, $11.49 (USD).

CharlieThe Truth About Charlie — ebook, $2.99 (USD); tradeback, $9.99 (USD).

Did Lucy Bedford Have to Die — ebook, $2.99 (USD); tradeback, $11.99 (USD).

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